China Ministry of Health Issues Guidelines on Preventing Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission
China's Ministry of Health has issued guidelines on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission to combat a growing number of such cases, China Daily reports. HIV-positive women can transmit the virus to an infant during pregnancy or birth or through breastfeeding (Feng, China Daily, 11/9). The ministry will offer examinations at no cost to HIV-positive pregnant women, and the government also urged medical institutions to provide antiretroviral therapy at no cost to HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants, PTI News reports (PTI News, 11/9). Without antiretroviral drugs such as nevirapine -- which is taken by women during labor and administered to infants following birth -- about 25% of infants born to HIV-positive women contract the disease from their mothers. However, the risk of vertical HIV transmission can be reduced to about 8% if the drug is administered to both the woman and the infant. Caesarean-section deliveries and bottle feeding -- as opposed to breastfeeding -- also help to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/14). The Chinese government in May announced a new nationwide effort to combat HIV/AIDS, including the provision of free antiretroviral treatment to reduce the risk of vertical HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). The World Health Organization last month called on nations to make the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission a "top priority," and urged nations to improve the availability of antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive women who require treatment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/22).
The guidelines outline strategies regarding HIV testing, reducing the risk of HIV transmission during labor and delivery and HIV/AIDS prevention education for new mothers, the People's Daily reports. HIV testing is voluntary and confidential, according to Hao Yang, an HIV/AIDS division director in the health ministry, who added that some couples are refusing to undergo testing even though it is provided at no cost. Measures to prevent pregnant women from transmitting HIV to their infants include the provision of antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy and labor and education about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding, according to the People's Daily. The ministry said it plans to provide antiretroviral drugs at no cost to 90% of the children who contract the virus from their HIV-positive mothers over the next two years (People's Daily, 11/9). About 0.6% of the estimated 840,000 HIV-positive in China are infants who contracted the virus from their mothers, according to China Daily (China Daily, 11/9). In addition, approximately 40,000 to 50,000 children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS-related illnesses live in China, according to Koen Vanormelingen, chief of the health and nutrition section of UNICEF's China office, the China Economic Information Service reports. He predicted that China would have 150,000 to 250,000 AIDS orphans by 2010 (CEIS, 11/9).