Bold New Step in the HIV Challenge
Western Cape’s Early ARV Treatment and Intensified Prevention for Neonates will Reduce Mother-to-child Transmission to Virtually Zero
Western Cape Health Minister, Theuns Botha, this morning announced that the province will be introducing dual combination ARV preventative therapy to new-borns from HIV-infected high risk mothers. This is a first for the country and a bold new step in the challenge to further reduce mother to child HIV-transmission of HIV.
This step is in addition to the Western Cape already being one step ahead with life-long triple therapy for HIV-positive mothers, which is a World Health Organization recommendation, but the Western Cape is the only province implementing this recommendation.
The Western Cape cabinet endorsed the ground-breaking initiative this morning at its last sitting of this term.
HIV-exposed infants born from high risk mothers will be tested by a HIV-PCR test at birth. In line with the latest international ground-breaking research, this will allow for early initiation of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in those infants who test positive, which significantly reduces HIV-associated morbidity and mortality. HIV negative infants of high-risk mothers will receive a dual combination of Nevirapine and Zidovudine as intensified post exposure prophylaxis and their HIV-PCR test will be repeated at 6 weeks of age.
This earlier testing and treatment initiation of HIV-positive infants and intensified post exposure prophylaxis for HIV negative infants born from high risk mothers will be additional to the current continued ART treatment for all HIV positive mothers.
With this bold step the Western Cape is continuing to lead the country in the challenge to further reduce the prevalence of HIV/Aids. Minister Botha says: "At 1.7% the Provinces’ prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission rate is already the lowest in the country. This further step to test and treat new-borns is likely to further reduce that rate significantly".
The combination of triple ARV therapy for HIV positive mothers and intensified treatment for new-borns offers an opportunity to reduce mother-to-child transmission to virtually zero in the Western Cape. If trans-placental transmission has occurred, testing at birth will allow for early ART initiation and optimal care of the HIV-infected baby for improved quality of life and child survival.
Minister Botha says: "With this step the Province is taking up the World Health Organization’s HIV theme: 'Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths'”.
"We are also creating an additional platform for national and international research in the Province, for which there is a great demand".
The announcement will come into effect from the beginning of July 2014.