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LEGETAFO and ALEM BANK, Ethiopia—In 24 months, 1,919 babies have been delivered in government health centers in these two communities, and only one of them has been found HIV-positive. That’s a pretty good performance, even in a country with a relatively low 1.5% adult HIV prevalence.
It’s not that no HIV-positive mothers were detected. On the contrary, 30 HIV-positive women delivered babies in Alem Bank and 11 in Legetafo. But only one of the babies was HIV-positive (although there were a number of HIV-positive pregnant women who had not yet delivered as of May 1). This baby is on antiretroviral treatment and doing fine.
Though I have been deeply involved in HIV prevention for almost 20 years, this was my first time to see a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program up close and personal. It happened while I was visiting IntraHealth’s program in these two communities: Alem Bank, an urban clinic in the Kolfe/Keranyo neighborhood of Addis Ababa serving 127,447, and Legetafo, a peri-urban clinic in Oromia Region about 22 kilometers northeast of Addis serving 14,580.
Findings from the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) for Ethiopia show the need for PMTCT:
Before IntraHealth started its PMTCT work in Ethiopia in 2003, such services were not available at any government health center in the country. Now they are available at 499 facilities. Alem Bank and Legetafo are two of those health centers that help newborns stay HIV-positive and give prospective and new mothers the care and counseling they need if they are HIV-positive.
How have they done it? I don’t know all the secrets to their success, but I was impressed by three things:
And getting them to come to the center is a major goal of these health centers, especially for PMTCT and for antenatal, childbirth, and postnatal care but also for family planning, immunization, laboratory services, and other types of outpatient services.
The 2011 Demographic and Health Survey indicates that only 10% of deliveries take place within health facilities (although that represents a doubling of the 5% who did so in 2005). Clearly, these two centers are on the leading edge of that positive trend.
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