In an effort to ensure that all children in Swaziland are born free of HIV, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) is joining forces with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support the Swaziland Ministry of Health’s plan to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV throughout the country.
The five-year, $12 million program, titled Eliminating Pediatric AIDS in Swaziland (EPAS), will expand the availability of comprehensive services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, reduce missed opportunities for delivery of services, and better address cultural norms that keep some women from obtaining these services.
“We are grateful for the support of both USAID and the Swaziland Ministry of Health, and their focus on ending mother-to-child transmission of the virus,” said Dr. Mohammed Ali Mahdi, Country Director in Swaziland for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
With an estimated adult HIV prevalence of 26%, Swaziland is home to the world’s most severe HIV/AIDS epidemic. Women and children are particularly affected, with 42% of pregnant women who receive antenatal care testing HIV-positive.
“Swaziland is confronting its high HIV prevalence rate directly and aggressively, and is at the forefront of global efforts to eliminate new pediatric HIV infections,” said Charles Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. “Through its leadership, the Government of Swaziland will show others that it is possible to create a generation free of HIV.”
The EPAS program will make the most effective PMTCT services available to mothers in 100 percent of public facilities and selected high-volume private facilities. In addition, missed opportunities to provide services will be reduced through increased primary prevention, family planning, HIV re-testing during pregnancy, and mobilization of pregnant women for early antenatal care and delivery in health facilities.
The Foundation has recruited two strong partner organizations, one with community-level expertise for this program, whose work will be critical to addressing gender-related cultural norms. The program will take a family-centered approach, offer male involvement activities, and promote community days as a way to create demand for PMTCT services.
The family-centered approach will help to ensure that siblings and male partners are also able to access the HIV services they need. Quality will be improved through clinical mentoring, training, and supervision, and by facility-based, quality improvement techniques that are already in use. To ensure a comprehensive service package, the Foundation team will accelerate support around HIV counseling and testing for children and couples, referrals and linkages to neonatal male circumcision, and up-to-date HIV care and support.
Health sector strengthening is also a critical component of the Ministry of Health national plan, including for PMTCT. Through the capacity building aspects of this program, five key areas will be addressed: human resources, strategic information, logistics management, site support supervision, and program and financial management.
“This collaboration will improve the lives of countless women, children, and families, and we look forward to the day when every child in Swaziland is born HIV-free,” said Dr. Mahdi.
About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS, and has reached more than 11 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It works at more than 5,400 sites in 17 countries to implement prevention and care and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute strategic and targeted global advocacy activities in order to bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.