Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Belarus Decreasing, Health Official Says
The mother-to-child HIV transmission rate in Belarus has decreased from 5.7% in 2005 to 4% currently, Mikhail Rymzha, the country's former chief sanitary officer, said Thursday during a news conference organized to present Belarus' national report on the implementation of the United Nation Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, BelaPAN reports.
According to official statistics, 1,144 infants were born to HIV-positive women between 1987 and May 1, 2008 -- 127 of whom tested positive for HIV. Rymzha said that a goal to reduce the rate of MTCT to 2% was prevented because of various factors, including the "social status of some HIV-[positive] pregnant women." At the conference, Rymzha also discussed the country's methadone substitution program, which aims to prevent the spread of HIV among injection drug users. The program, launched in Homyel, currently serves 19 IDUs, but the number is expected to increase after a methadone distribution center opens in Minsk (Darashchonak, BelaPAN, 5/22). In addition, Rymzha said the number of people with access to no-cost antiretroviral drugs has increased to 1,000, compared with 15 people in 2004. He added that the average cost for antiretrovirals decreased by almost sixfold from between $10,000 and $15,000 per person annually in 2004 to between $600 and $2,500 per person currently. According to Rymzha, funding for the antiretroviral program partly comes from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
According to the National Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health, 349 new HIV cases were recorded in the country in the first four months of this year. A total of 9,086 people were living with HIV/AIDS as of May 1 in the country, BelaPAN reports (Darashchonak , BelaPAN, 5/22).