Successes on the Front Lines
Today, we visited facilities in Homa Bay on the south shore of Lake Victoria, another district within Nyanza Province.
The determination shown by health workers in their efforts to get results despite the challenges is striking. Both the dispensary in Ngegu and Kendu Bay district hospital have seen dramatic reductions in mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the last two years.
In 2011, data from the Ngegu dispensary found mother-to-child HIV transmission rates of 27 percent, with seven out of 26 infants testing positive for HIV at 18 months. In 2012, the mother-to-child transmission rate fell to 8.3 percent. A total of 36 infants were tested for HIV at six weeks, nine months and 18 months, out of which only three were HIV positive. This is remarkable progress in just under one year.
The facility health workers are determined to ensure no woman who tests positive for HIV misses out on HIV treatment. Since they began this year, no child whose mother received prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services has been born with the virus.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is supporting community-level efforts to ensure HIV positive mothers continue in the program to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV. At Kendu Bay district hospital, 92 HIV exposed infants “graduated” after the final confirmatory HIV test at 18 months. Only one was HIV positive.
Bringing HIV services closer to the people and investing in community outreach efforts through following up families at the household level are resulting in higher retention and greater efficiency in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV.
Although laboratory diagnostics services to determine the extent of HIV infection are not available in some lower-level facilities, EGPAF and the health ministry-pioneered laboratory networks are helping to ensure diagnostic services are more readily accessible to people in rural communities. Samples are collected from clients and sent to established referral labs with the necessary equipment and technical staff.
The team work is impressive, and the results speak for themselves. In a very deliberate way, the nurses and support staff are focused on each of the steps necessary to ensure the availability of services and that linkages with the community are strong. Their efforts clearly illustrate how the elimination of pediatric HIV/AIDS is progressing family by family, facility by facility, region by region.
Kenya has the fourth-largest burden of HIV/AIDS in the world, and this region has the highest burden in Kenya. But with these results, the teams in Nyanza are setting a clear example of success.
Read my blog about an earlier site visit to Ndhiwa district hospital in Kenya.
Chip Lyons is EGPAF's President and CEO, based in Washington, D.C.