AFRICA/SOUTH AFRICA - Maternal deaths increase mainly among women with HIV

Cape Town (Agenzia Fides) - Since 1990 the rate of maternal deaths has quadrupled in South Africa, mainly due to inadequate prenatal care, neglect and discrimination against women with HIV. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, however, deaths were reduced by one quarter compared to the same year. South Africa increased from 150 maternal deaths in 1990 to 625 in 2010, every 100 000 live births. According to Human Rights Watch, HIV is one of the main reasons that aggravates this phenomenon. An alarming picture, index of the state of abandonment on behalf of the South African health system, is what is highlighted from the study "Stop Making Excuses: Accountability for Maternal Health Care in South Africa," where, among other things, stresses the fact that women come to hospital when they are already in labor and are sent home without even being visited; nurses who ignore or leave them waiting for hours and days; women who are physically and verbally abused by hospital staff and others forced to change the sheets on their own or carry their children around the hospital even though they are still weak after having given birth.
Even other cases of HIV-positive women from other parts of Africa who suffered discrimination were reported. According to local health authorities, the failure is mostly determined by the staff, who overwork, are not paid adequately and feel demoralized. In addition, the policies of the purchases that have monopolized the control of drugs, have deprived each hospital of the opportunity to administer life-saving ones. Another aggravating situation is the lack of information regarding maternal death rates in the country and that a Demographic Survey has not carried out since 2003. It is said that the delays are due to the high costs, although there are countries with fewer resources that have updated surveys. The main cause of these maternal deaths is HIV, but the National Health Department does not focus adequately on the pandemic. For example, women do not know that they have to undergo prenatal care because the clinics are full of sick people. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 05/09/2011)

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