AFRICA/SWAZILAND - Precarious healthcare system prevents reduction of mother-infant HIV transmission

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Mbabane (Agenzia Fides) – Swaziland has made great progress towards reducing mother-infant transmission of HIV, however local health workers fear this progress may be halted or even reversed unless local basic medical services are improved. Thanks to a programme to prevent mother-infant HIV transmission o (PMTCT), started in 2003, the figures of babies born HIV positive have been halved: from 40% to 21%. The number of early pregnancies has also been reduced. However due to scarcity of beds, nurses and water in local hospitals, most pregnant women still prefer to have the baby at home and so without PMTCT.
“Women refuse to go to clinics or hospitals because of the precarious conditions and scarcity of properly trained medical staff there ” we read in a report from Sophia Mukasa Monico, UNAIDS coordinator in Swaziland. More than one out of every four Swazi mothers who give birth at home do not use PMTCT. Deeply rooted attitudes and customs obstruct change, restrict the success of PMTCT, and help increase the infant mortality rate of 85 deaths out of every 1000 babies born alive. According to the World Health Organisation, although it is possible within the first three months of pregnancy to determine whether a pregnant woman is HIV+ and therefore to intervene with successful PMTCT treatment, Swazi tradition discourages women from talking about their pregnancy in the first 14 weeks, fearing this will bring misfortune and cause abortion. Experts say that to consolidate local health services it is necessary to integrate PMTCT with a more holistic approach. (AP) (13/7/2010 Agenzia Fides)