Preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is possible – or at least, it is possible when the resources are available. According to the World Health Organization, “an estimated 430,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2008, the vast majority of them through MTCT.” When the proper medication and care is available, MTCT in utero or via breast feeding is almost entirely preventable. However, the coverage levels are remarkably low in most resource-limited countries.
In the below video by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), AIDS activists from Brazil, Canada, India, Malawi, USA and Zambia speak out about the actions needed to prevent MTCT. The video was filmed during a march on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010. In the video, Aditi Sharma of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, says:
HIV positive women in many countries, when they go to deliver their baby, nurses and doctors refuse to treat them. Many are forcibly sterilized and discouraged from having babies….We’re campaigning to make sure… women’s health is the centerpiece of the entire program.
This cannot be emphasized enough. My IWHC colleague Alex Garita,wrote this after seeing a panel on MTCT that she found problematic at the International AIDS Conference this summer:
If we truly want to invest in women’s health within the HIV/AIDS response, the first prong of PMTCT must be tackled head-on, including by providing women with the comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services- contraception, maternity care, safe abortion, STI/HIV testing and treatment. Programs must also respect, protect, and fulfill women’s human rights, including their sexual and reproductive rights.
In order to authentically address the health needs of women -and their families- the bigger picture of health and wellness must be attended to.