“MTCT rate in The Gambia reduced from 30% in Global Fund Round 3 to 9.4% in global fund round 8,” Mrs Mbinki Sanneh, the coordinator of MTCT, told journalists recently at news conference held at the National Aids Secretariats office along the Kairba Avenue.
Presenting a paper on overview of PMTCT in the Gambia, Madam Sanneh said mother-to-child transmission can occur in pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding adding that globally, about 370,000 children under the age of 15 years become infected with HIV in 2009 and 90% of them got HIV through their mothers.
She said mother-to-child transmission is reversing the positive downtrend of infant and child mortality previously seen in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dilating on the progress made by her unit, she said the sites were expanded from 5 in 2005 to 32 in 2013 countrywide (22 out 73 public clinics and 10 private clinics) and PMTCT strategy plan and HIV pandemic treatment manual developed. She said the results from the 2012 national sentinel surveillance survey in The Gambia indicated that the prevalence rate of HIV 1 is 1.5 and HIV2 is 0.26%.
She called for additional moblisation of resources at both local and international level to eliminate mother-to-child transmission while scaling up plans to ensure uninterrupted supplies of anti-retroviral test kits, reagents and others supplies.
Madam Sanneh however did not rule out challenges, stating that testing of infants born to HIV positive mothers at the age of 6 weeks is a challenge and funds are inadequate to scale-up services to all clinics in the Gambia.
She also described high rates of stigma, discrimination and negative perception of people living with HIV particularly women living with HIV as another challenge as well as limited male involvement in PMTCT services.
For his part, Pa Ousman Bah, programme manager highlighted the purpose of the press briefing saying it aimed to highlight and showcase some of the activities spearheaded by the office of the first lady against HIV and AIDS with emphasis on prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, and to solicits the support of media in disseminating Organization of African First Ladies against Aids programmes and activities.
He urged the media to contribute their quota in the noble initiative of African First Ladies in the fights against HIV/AIDS.
He announced that OAFLAA-GAM under the leadership of the First Lady, Zineb Jammeh initiated and implemented a number of programmes and projects across a wide range of areas all geared towards the improvement of the status of women and children in The Gambia.
The director of the National Aids Secretariat, Ousman Badjie, noted that NAS has submitted three proposals to the office of African First Ladies Against AIDS in Addis Ababa and funding was received from the parent body OAFLAA.
He said: “Our focus is how to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/Aids in The Gambia. It is no longer accepted for children’s to be born with HIV. We are all stakeholders in HIV response and the media has the power to change people perceptions towards HIV/AIDS.”
Director Badjie called on the media to join the bandwagon to sensitize masses about the good work of OAFLAA in ensuring that no child is born with HIV transmission.
Alpha Khan, deputy director NAS also task the media to do more in the area of awareness creation about OAFAA activity that can promote regional development on HIV and Aids in Africa.
Author: Sainey MK Marenah]]>