PMTCT 'not just a medical problem'

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pretoria - Social obstacles such as attitudes, norms and behaviours aid to the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said the obstacles that stand in the way of reducing mother to child transmission rates are not primarily technical or medical in nature, they are social.

"We will not see significant progress as long as pregnancy is regarded as a women's problem and men exclude themselves from educational and role playing opportunities during and after pregnancy.

"We will not see significant progress as long as women are victims of violence and have no freedom to decide on their reproductive health, even if it means saving their own lives."

Receiving a report on an impact study on the PMTCT conducted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Centre for Rural Health, Dhlomo said that the root causes of unmet health needs in women reside in social obstacles.

The key findings of the study showed a number of gaps and successes in PMTCT implementation, reduction of transmission and antenatal care services.

It shows that women frequently had HIV tests late in pregnancy, with 66.7 percent reporting being tested for HIV in the third trimester, by which time PMTCT interventions should have started.

"Many women had a CD4 taken, but only a lower number had received the result, among those women who had received CD4 results and reported CD4 counts below 200, some had not started anti retroviral treatment," the report stated.

The provincial department commissioned the study in Amajuba, eThekwini, Ugu, Umgungundlovu, Umkhanyakude and Zululand districts in order to see the impact and the difference that the dual therapy PMTCT programme was making on pregnant women.

The study also included primary health care clinics in each district including hospital gateway clinics.

Dhlomo urged all expecting mothers to book early for their antenatal care as most of them do not attend antenatal clinics until their pregnancy has advanced.