16. It Takes a Village to Raise an HIV-free Generation
Evelyn Adhiambo is ending 2014 as a happy mother. Her youngest child, at 18 months, has tested negative for HIV, despite the fact that both Evelyn and her husband are HIV-positive.
With Homa Bay County, Kenya, accounting for an estimated 12,000 new HIV infections every year — and more than 4,500 children there dying because of HIV/AIDS complications in 2013 — Evelyn’s story might seem the exception to the rule. However, there are many other such success stories thanks to the work of EGPAF-supported facilities in the area.
Caroline Atieno, the nurse in charge of the Ngegu dispensary explains that in 2010 — with the help of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics AIDS Foundation's (EGPAF) Pamoja project — the clinic was able to integrate HIV services into its maternal and child health programs. As a result, pregnant women who test positive for HIV when they begin antenatal care are no longer referred elsewhere for care; they are immediately enrolled into the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) program.
“Since we began providing HIV services, we have been monitoring 98 babies born to HIV-positive mothers,” says Atieno. “Eighty-nine of the babies, including Adhiambo’s baby, tested negative; nine turned [out to be] HIV-positive and are on treatment.”
Ngegu is not the only dispensary to create greater access to PMTCT services. In nearby Kwamo, another dispensary which integrated PMTCT services into their existing health services in 2010. The Kwamo dispensary recently registered zero transmissions at 18 months for those HIV-exposed infants who have undergone and completed the PMTCT program.
Prior to receiving support from EGPAF, these facilities did not have the capacity to handle the administration of PMTCT. Mother-baby pairs were referred to other health facilities and, as a result, as many as half of those in need of treatment were lost to follow-up. These clients not only stopped all antiretroviral therapy for more than 30 days, but they never returned to the dispensary for HIV care.
The support from EGPAF means a lot. Nearly half of the more than 63,000 adults and children on treatment in Homabay County are reached through EGPAF’s Pamoja project. “In Homabay County, a quarter of the population is infected,” says Homabay County Health Minister Lawrence Koteng, M.D, emphasizing the magnitude of the crisis. “One of the ways to achieve a HIV-free generation is to ensure that children are born free of HIV,”
Providing HIV-services and maternal and child health care at the village level are part a package that will eventually lead to an AIDS-free generation in Homabay.
Because an AIDS-free generation is not just a dream, from November 24 through December 26 we are highlighting 25 ways that EGPAF, our partners, and every-day people are helping and/or can help make it a reality. Pediatric HIV/AIDS is solvable, but we can't do it alone. Each and every one of us has an important role to play.