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November 21, 2018

Mother-to-child HIV infection down to 3.7%

The Kisii County Beyond Zero Mobile Clinic attends to wananchi in Morimani village /PSCU
The Kisii County Beyond Zero Mobile Clinic attends to wananchi in Morimani village /PSCU

Nearly all mothers living with HIV in Kenya can now safely give birth to HIV negative babies, if they follow treatment guidelines. 

The ministry says by last year only 3.7 per cent of mothers passed the virus on to their babies, largely because they failed to get proper treatment during pregnancy and birth.

Still, this one of the world's lowest infection rates in countries with a high HIV burden. 

“The number of HIV exposed infants has reduced from eight per cent in 2013 to 3.7 per cent in 2017,” says Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki.

 By end of last year, only seven countries in the world - in South America and in Asia - were certified to have completely eliminated mother to child infections.

However, Kenya has now surpassed the global target, which seeks to reduce mother to child transmission to below five per cent and prevent mothers from dying.

 “We have averted 4,000 new HIV infections among infants born to HIV positive mothers,” said Kariuki in the speech read on her behalf by the Head of Preventive and Promotive Health, Dr Peter Cherutich during a joint consultative meeting for the First Lady’s New Strategic Framework 2018-2022 recently.

Positive mothers can pass the virus to babies during pregnancy, labor and delivery or through breastfeeding.

Effective programmes require women and their infants to have access to - and to take up - a cascade of interventions including antenatal services and HIV testing during pregnancy.

Pregnant women living with HIV must take ARVs, give birth safely in hospitals, ensure appropriate infant feeding, have their children tested within two months of birth and continue with other other post-natal healthcare services.

 "Without treatment, the likelihood of HIV passing from mother-to-child is 15 per cent to 45 per cent," says the World Health Organisation.

However, ARVs and other effective interventions can reduce this risk to below five per cent.

Kenya launched a plan for elimination of mother to child transmission in 2012, involving access to ARVs during pregnancy, safe delivery methods, ARVs for infants during breastfeeding, and promotion of exclusive, rather than mixed, breastfeeding.

The incidence of mother-to-child transmission at 18 months of age was estimated to be as high as 15 per cent in 2011 in Kenya. 

The CS praised the role of First Lady Margaret Kenyatta for initiating the Free Maternity Services Programme dubbed Linda Mama and the Beyond Zero initiative.

“Through these strategic investments, we now have increased access to health services within the community through the mobile clinics in all the 47 counties and double skilled deliveries of 1.2 million per year, resulting in a decline in maternal mortality from 488 to 362 per 100,000 live births, which translates to 2,000 maternal deaths being averted annually,” she said.



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