As Zimbabwe intensifies its efforts towards the attainment of the 95–95–95 targets to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2030, stakeholders are joining forces to come up with strategies to find the last ‘missing’ children so that they can treat, care and retain them in prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions.
SAfAIDS Executive Director Lois Chingandu
Speaking at a partners’ consultative meeting in Harare last week, Lois Chingandu, SAfAIDS Executive Director, acknowledged that the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other stakeholders have done a lot of work in scaling up PMTCT interventions. However, she emphasised the need for all stakeholders to go back to the communities and design programmes to identify the missing children.
Dr Angela Mushavi, presenting on Entry Points for Identification of HIV exposed Infants.
The National PMTCT and Paediatric HIV, Care and Treatment Co-ordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Angela Mushavi, stressed that the scaling up of the PMTCT programme should give an opportunity to identify HIV Exposed Infants (HEI) after birth, initiate early antiretroviral prophylaxis, and retain the infants in HIV services until a final HIV status is possible and early treatment is initiated if necessary.
“This will lead us to the attainment of our targets where we are currently at 93%. As a country, we should aim to surpass the 95% set target,” she said.
Stakeholders agreed that community-led interventions will close the existing gaps and identify the missing children. It was agreed that a multidisciplinary team of heathcare workers including social and community workers and peer support groups should provide clear information to new mothers returning to their homes or villages, about where and when they can bring their infants for follow-up visits, including immunisation services, until their final HIV status is confirmed.
Health service providers were encouraged to share available options for paediatric HIV care and treatment with mothers, and to explain where these services are offered in the mothers’ home communities. This will assist in ensuring that every missing child is identified and provided with the services needed.
Janharmen Drost - Aidsfonds
The role out of this programme is receiving support from AidsFonds, a Netherlands based development partner.