KAMPALA – The Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has reported that prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/Aids has stagnated despite the relatively high funding directed towards the effort.
According to UNAIDs although Uganda has made efforts in curbing mother to child transmission of HIV [MTCT] the transmission has remained at 4% for a long time without reducing further.
While addressing the 11th Annual HIV/AIDs update meeting in Kampala organized by Joint Clinical Research Centre November 21, on the state of elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV in Uganda, Dr Emily Namara Lugolobi said a number of challenges still constrain the noble move.
The meeting was organised by Joint Clinical Research Centre.
He revealed that there are pregnant mothers who tested negative for HIV but somehow got HIV during the course of the pregnancy, Dr Emily added that mothers who stop taking ARV along the way during the pregnancy are some of the major reason for sustaining of MTCT in the country.
HIV can be transmitted from an HIV-positive woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), which is also known as ‘vertical transmission’, accounts for the vast majority of infections in children [0-14 years].
Dr Namara said without treatment if a pregnant woman is living with HIV the likelihood of the virus passing from mother-to-child is 15% to 45% but that antiretroviral treatment (ART) and other interventions can reduce this risk to below 5%.
Dr Namara citing drug resistance to ARVs which she is also contributing to low adherence to ART, she said there was also need to address primary prevention especially among the adolescents.
Injectable anti-retroviral drug for HIV/Aids
Dr Francis Ssali, the Deputy Executive Director of Joint Clinical Research Centre said they are rolling out major clinical trials to assess the acceptability of the Injectable anti-retroviral drug.
“The drugs have already gone through the first phase and second phase trial and we are doing the third phase. We shall start the clinical trials next year,” Dr Ssali said.
He added that some of the doses of drugs will be given after 2 months and said the injections will not totally eliminate the need for oral ARV medicine.
Dr Frank Rhame, a participant from UNAIDS said there are other classes of injectable ARVs with doses given up to six months apart.
The injectable ARV drug was developed by a USA drug development company called Viiv Healthcare.
According to Dr Rhame, there is progress in finding a cure for HIV, citing a case in London where an HIV/AIDs patient got cured years after Timothy Brown of Germany.
He said the London patient got a stem cell from a donor with a rare CCR5 gene, making them resistant to HIV.
Describing this as great but unaffordable, Mr Rhame added that CRISPR, a family of DNA sequences found in bacteria cells present great promises for more affordable HIV cure, but warned that this is still far away from finding the cure for HIV.
CRISPR is a gene-editing biological substance that bacteria have been using to kill viruses invading them. The technology is still being studied to see how applicable it can be in curbing the global burden of HIV.
KEY POINTS ON PMTCT
Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes offer a range of services for women of reproductive age living with or at risk of HIV to maintain their health and stop their infants from acquiring HIV.
PMTCT services are offered before conception, and throughout pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding.
PMTCT services include early infant diagnosis at four to six weeks after birth, testing at 18 months and/or when breastfeeding ends, and ART initiation as soon as possible for HIV-exposed infants to prevent HIV acquisition.
About 1.4 million HIV infections among children were prevented between 2010 and 2018 due to PMTCT programmes.