HIV Prevention Is not Enough: Child Survival in the Context of Prevention of Mother to Child HIV Transmission
Thea, Don M.
Aldrovandi, Grace M.
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Citation (published version)Kuhn, Louise, Moses Sinkala, Don M Thea, Chipepo Kankasa, Grace M Aldrovandi. "HIV prevention is not enough: child survival in the context of prevention of mother to child HIV transmission" Journal of the International AIDS Society 12:36. (2009)
Clinical and epidemiologic research has identified increasingly effective interventions to reduce mother to child HIV transmission in resource-limited settings These scientific breakthroughs have been implemented in some programmes, although much remains to be done to improve coverage and quality of these programmes. But prevention of HIV transmission is not enough. It is necessary also to consider ways to improve maternal health and protect child survival. A win-win approach is to ensure that all pregnant and lactating women with CD4 counts of <350 cells/mm3 have access to antiretroviral therapy. On its own, this approach will substantially improve maternal health and markedly reduce mother to child HIV transmission during pregnancy and delivery and through breastfeeding. This approach can be combined with additional interventions for women with higher CD4 counts, either extended prophylaxis to infants or extended regimens of antiretroviral drugs to women, to reduce transmission even further. Attempts to encourage women to abstain from all breastfeeding or to shorten the optimal duration of breastfeeding have led to increases in mortality among both uninfected and infected children. A better approach is to support breastfeeding while strengthening programmes to provide antiretroviral therapy for pregnant and lactating women who need it and offering antiretroviral drug interventions through the duration of breastfeeding. This will lead to reduced HIV transmission and will protect the health of women without compromising the health and well-being of infants and young children.