Kenya Improving Access to Vertical HIV Transmission-Prevention Services, Official Says
Although the Kenyan government has not met its goal for increased access to prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission services set at the 2001 U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, it has improved access to such services, a government official said recently, IRIN News reports. World leaders in 2001 pledged to ensure that 80% of pregnant women worldwide would have access to PMTCT services. Robert Ayisi, vertical HIV transmission-prevention coordinator for Kenya's National AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme, said, "We now have between 40% and 50% of all HIV-positive expectant mothers accessing PMTCT and have trained thousands of health workers." The government ahead of the UNGASS review next month has asked that donor countries make their programs more "Afro-centric" and consider local cultural traditions and practices, according to IRIN News. In Kenya, traditional birth attendants are present at more births than trained medical workers, and Ayisi said the government is training such attendants in how to prevent vertical HIV transmission. The government also is encouraging traditional birth attendants to help reduce the stigma surrounding the virus, in part because many women do not follow guidelines to prevent vertical transmission -- such as not breast-feeding -- because of stigma. An infant has a 15% to 30% chance of contracting HIV through breast-feeding, IRIN News reports. According to IRIN News, lack of participation among men in the health of women and infants also hinders PMTCT efforts in the country. In an effort to increase participation among men, Machakos District Hospital in Machakos, Kenya, began a program called "Men As Partners" as part of its overall PMTCT program (IRIN News, 5/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.