When you think of the risks of HIV/AIDS infection in Africa, do you worry about babies?
When an HIV-positive mother is pregnant, her baby is at risk to HIV exposure in three different phases: during pregnancy, during labor, and during breast feeding. However, when HIV-positive women are provided with antiretroviral therapy before, during, and after pregnancy this reduces mother to child transmission of HIV to 2 percent or less.
That is the tension: virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV is possible and yet nearly half a million pediatric HIV cases exist in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This is why Blood:Water is supporting an all out effort to eliminate mother-to-child transmission in Lwala, Kenya, where almost 15 percent of pregnant women are HIV-positive. We are dreaming with our partner on the ground about an AIDS-free generation, that is a time when every baby is free of HIV.
But achieving this will not be easy. Every pregnant mom will need to be tested. Each woman who is HIV-positive will need to be enrolled in antiretroviral therapy, which is lifelong drug treatment. These mothers will need special social and educational support to make sure they understand how to reduce the risk of transmission during breastfeeding. HIV-exposed babies will need to be tracked and tested to ensure they remain HIV free, until they are weaned from breastfeeding at 18 months or so.
This is all possible, but it takes careful planning and it takes resources.
We have found that $1,000 will save an HIV-exposed baby from infection and give a mother the medicine, education, and support she needs. We are defeating AIDS in Lwala one baby at a time. Will you join me in the fight?