Maternal health and prevention of mother to child transmission

Polly Clayden, HIV i-Base

There was a noticeable lack of new data on prevention of mother to child transmission at this conference, and despite some strong statements about “women and girls” throughout the week, most studies placed little emphasis on the mothers’ health.

“We have the tools and we have to more forward”, Elaine Abrams insisted in her presentation. Presenting a convincing case for the substantial benefits of linking prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) with HIV care and treatment programmes. She highlighted that this would not only strengthen PMTCT interventions – for example with use of HAART where appropriate – but also enhance women’s and children’s health, “In keeping mothers healthy and alive we are also likely to keep their babies healthy”. The opportunity provided by PMTCT for identifying HIV positive women must not be lost, with regard to linking these women with the treatment and care services they need. Although the experience to date of linkage programmes is limited, there are innovative models to guide us, including the MTCT-Plus initiatives.

We have failed to reach more than 90% of pregnant women needing PMTCT, predominantly those living in resource-limited settings. We have failed to focus on maternal health. In addition to increasing coverage, we need to improve the follow-up of HIV-positive mothers and their babies and to obtain outcome data for the evaluation of programmes in “real-life” settings.

The following reports on maternal health and PMTCT are inlcuded in this issue:

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