Is Kenya finally winning the battle to end mother to child HIV/Aids transmission?
Health programmes integrating services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV into regular maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) clinics, rather than operating PMTCT services as stand alone programmes, are showing positive results in Kenya, experts say.
In Western Kenya’s rural district of Ndhiwa, where 17 out of 26 health facilities started to integrate PMTCT and MNCH in May 2010, mother-to-child HIV transmission has dropped from 11 per cent to under four per cent.
Traditionally, Kenya’s public hospitals have managed HIV cases through Comprehensive Care Centres (CCC); women diagnosed with HIV in the regular MNCH clinics were referred to and then handled separately by the CCC.
“In 2010, transmission rates here were high because mothers were dropping out of the comprehensive care centres.
Many were either finding it too stigmatising or were just bogged down by having to seek services at different points within a single health facility.
As a result, children who would have been helped through an efficient system simply got infected with HIV or failed to get treatment,” said Justus Ojwang, Ndhiwa district Aids and sexually transmitted infections co-ordinator.
“One of the ways to ensure that mother-to-child transmission can be eliminated is to have mothers come to health facilities both before and after delivery. But when you have a PMTCT programme that is isolated, many mothers tend to shun health facilities,” he added.
The government is now moving towards the integration of HIV and other public health services, part of efforts to strengthen the overall health system.