Ray Bande in Macheke
ZIMBABWE last year recorded a total of 5 919 cases of mother to child HIV transmissions, The Manica Post has learnt.
The 2020 HIV estimates reveal statistics recorded in 2019.
In an interview with The Manica Post on the sidelines of a National Aids Council (NAC) workshop in Macheke, National Coordinator for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) and Peadiatric HIV in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Angela Mushavi said the 5 919 new cases have negatively affected their targets.
“It is definitely not within our targets to continue counting 5 919 new infections among children. Our target is to have less than 250 new cases per 100 000 live births. For a country such as ours — with 500 000 births per year — we should be seeing less than 1 250 new cases of paediatric HIV per annum.
“We need to reduce new infections in newborn babies,” said Dr Mushavi.
She said the major drivers of this trend is women who do not seek antenatal care services as well as women who register their pregnancies late.
Dr Mushavi said HIV positive women who are not on anti-retroviral treatment are also fuelling mother to child transmission.
She also said there is a worrying trend of women who test negative early in pregnancy, but contract the virus during pregnancy.
“Not practising safe sex during pregnancy or when lactating have been the major drivers of HIV transmission to children,” she said.
Dr Mushavi urged women to register their pregnancies early and practise safe sex during pregnancy.
“We urge women to come for antenatal services early in pregnancy. This should be done in the first three months of life.
“Pregnant women are encouraged to get tested. If someone tests negative, they must continue being tested so that they always know their correct status. If positive, they should start getting medication early.
“We also encourage men to get tested regularly, especially when they have a pregnant partner. If the woman is negative and the husband contracts the virus along the way, the woman might also end up becoming positive and pass it on to the child,” Dr Mushavi said.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries hardest hit by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.
As of 2017, nearly 1,3 million people were living with HIV in Zimbabwe.
A total of 77 000 of those individuals are children under the age of 15.