Dr. Jimmy Mugume, the head of HIV pediatric treatment at Fort Portal Referral hospital says that some mothers deliberately refuse to attend PMTCT services because they don't want to be known to be living with HIV and are ashamed of themselves.
Stigma among women living with HIVAIDS in Kabalore is undermining pediatric HIV treatment in the district. A survey carried out by the district health department indicate that whereas mothers are expected to go for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services in health facilities to protect their babies from infection, many women are shunning the intervention for fear of revealing their sero-status.
The survey also reveals that some HIV positive mothers give wrong addresses to health workers to avoid being followed up, which exposes their unborn babies to HIV infection because they are not receiving any treatment.
Dr. Jimmy Mugume, the head of HIV pediatric treatment at Fort Portal Referral hospital says that some mothers deliberately refuse to attend PMTCT services because they don't want to be known to be living with HIV and are ashamed of themselves. Mugume says only 10 out of the 60 mothers who were registered for PMTCT services at the facility at the beginning of this year turn up for treatment.
He adds that failure by mothers to attend PMTCT services makes it impossible for health workers to administer ARV drugs that can prevent transmission to the infant. Mugume explains that during PMTCT, health workers are supposed to carry out Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) so that the infants are initiated on ART.
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Francis Obit, the Kabarole district health officer says that this year, 150 children whose mothers didn't attend PMTCT services got infected with HIV. He says that the district is yet to open outreach centres in rural areas to counsel HIV positive women on how to fight stigma.
Steven Mugisa, the Kabarole district HIVAIDS focal person says that they are yet to start campaigns to increase community awareness of the benefits of PMTCT services and pediatric HIV/AIDS diagnosis, but they are constrained by lack of funds. He says that some women don't know that giving food or a drink to the breastfeeding baby of an HIV-positive mother is not allowed.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), without diagnosis and treatment about 35% of HIV-infected pregnant women will transmit HIV to their infants. The health body advocates for key interventions that can reduce mother to child transmission of HIV to less than 5%.
They include routine HIV testing and counseling of all pregnant women, provision of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to all HIV-positive women during pregnancy, birth, and after delivery; preventive therapy with ARVs for infants born to HIV-positive mothers and safe infant feeding to minimize transmission.