PMTCT. It stands for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission. I think I might have talked about this briefly before but I thought I should describe it a bit more in this posting.
This is an area which was especially new for me when I came to St. Francis. That pregnant HIV+ women can have babies who are HIV negative (or reduce the risks of transmitting the virus) through a recommended regimen put out by the WHO. From what I have been told and read, the key was to understand the mother’s CD4 level. Women who have reached the advanced stages of HIV disease require a combination of antiretroviral drugs for their own health. This treatment, which must be taken every day for the rest of a woman’s life, is also highly effective at preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). Women who require treatment will usually be advised to take it, beginning either immediately or after the first trimester. Their newborn babies will usually be given a course of treatment for the first few days or weeks of life, to lower the risk even further. Pregnant women who do not yet need treatment for their own HIV infection can take a short course of drugs to help protect their unborn babies. Babies are encouraged to be breast-fed in Uganda after birth for a period of up to 6 months. However, there is a risk of transmission via breast milk itself. So an ARV syrup is given to the babies during the entire breastfeeding period in order to reduce risks of transmission.
Proper adherence is so critical to the success of PMTCT and following the guidelines. I do know that it can be successful since there is one counselor who is HIV+ at St. Francis and has two healthy children!