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Zimbabwe Attempting to Eliminate Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.
A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.

Zimbabwe’s Health Ministry says it is committed to reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission from 7 percent to zero in the next two years and has put in place programs to ensure that commitment is realised.

Dr. Angela Mushavi, the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission and Pediatric HIV Care and Treatment coordinator in the Health Ministry, told Voice of America's Studio 7 that it is imperative for families, especially women, to go for early HIV testing.

Dr. Mushavi said the country was now in the preparatory stages of trying to get certification similar to Cuba, which was certified by the World Health Organisation as one of the countries in the world that has managed to reduce the number of new HIV transmission cases from mother to child to zero.

"We have seen some tremendous progress in Zimbabwe as we scale up our programs to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in much the same way as Cuba was declared the first country to eliminate new HIV infections by the World Health Organisation. We are now in the preparatory stage towards similar certification and the mother-to-child transmission rate is now at 7% and we need to work hard this year to get to less than 5% with our final goal being 0%," said Dr. Mushavi.

Dr. Mushavi said early testing and detection will ensure that expecting mothers with the virus are put on early treatment and have a chance to give birth to children who are HIV negative.

For Zimbabwe to have a chance of getting certification, the country has to provide 95% of all pregnant women with antenatal care services and when they present themselves to the clinics, health officials have to check 95% of them for HIV and those found positive are put on anti-retrovirals. The country to reach certification, 90% of those found with the virus should be on treatment.

"Right now we are working on the process indicators and will take about a year for us to get to those milestones,” said Dr. Mushavi.

Dr. Mushavi urged women and their partners to know their HIV status and in cases where the mother tests positive, it was important to start antiretroviral drugs early.

"The importance of a pregnant woman knowing her HIV status is that if she happens to be HIV positive we have antiretroviral medications that we can give to her to prevent transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby. The HIV virus can be passed from a positive pregnant mother through birth, or breasting feeding and it is our hope to stop this by starting treatment early," said Dr. Mushavi.

Interview With Dr Angela Mushavi
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