Washington Post Profiles South African Program Using Nevirapine To Reduce Risk of Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission
The Washington Post on Wednesday examined a program at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa, that aims to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission by administering the antiretroviral drug nevirapine to HIV-positive pregnant women and their newborns. The once-controversial drug "for years pitted AIDS activists against a government reluctant to distribute nevirapine," the Post reports. However, since the AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign won a lawsuit against the government that forced provision of nevirapine, "there has been little evidence of dangerous side effects" from the drug, although some women who take nevirapine during labor later develop resistance to it and similar drugs, according to the Post. The South African government runs a $4 million program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in Gauteng province, which includes Soweto, Johannesburg and Pretoria. According to doctors at the hospital, more than 25% of pregnant women in Soweto are HIV-positive and about 80% of those women receive nevirapine. Without the drug -- which is taken by the woman during labor and administered to the infant following birth -- about 25% of infants born to HIV-positive women at the hospital contract HIV from their mothers; however, with the now-routine adiministration of the drug, the incidence of mother-to-child HIV transmission at the hospital is about 8%, according to doctors. Caesarean-section deliveries and bottle feeding -- as opposed to breastfeeding, which can transmit HIV to infants -- also help to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission, the Post reports. About five million HIV-positive people live in South Africa, more than in any other country in the world, according to the Post (Timberg, Washington Post, 6/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.