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SUSTAIN Joins Uganda's First Lady and Ministry of Health to Eliminate Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
URC's Strengthening Uganda's Systems for Treating AIDS Nationally (SUSTAIN) project, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), joined the Office of the First Lady, the Ministry of Health (MOH), and other partners to campaign for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (EMTCT). EMTCT is also known as prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or PMTCT. The campaign events, organized under the theme Stand Out, Participate, Protect, and Have an HIV-Free Baby, were held in Uganda's Northern, Eastern, and Karamoja regions in June, August, and September 2013, respectively. The SUSTAIN project supports five healthcare facilities in the three regions to offer EMTCT services.
During the campaign, SUSTAIN facilitated supported hospitals to showcase and provide EMTCT services. For example, health workers actively engaged in educating mothers and their partners about mother-to-child transmission of HIV, prevention, care, and treatment using the new Option B-Plus regimen. Also, screening for exposed infants was intensified, and HIV testing and counseling services were conducted for clients with unknown HIV status. In addition, SUSTAIN contributed to the printing of EMTCT posters (in both local and English languages), t-shirts, caps, and banners to promote awareness and the mobilization of communities near supported facilities.
The Honorable Janet Museveni, First Lady of the Republic of Uganda and the champion of the EMTCT campaign, presided over the events. "We need to wake up our communities and direct them to testing, because that's where the journey begins," the First Lady said. While in Lira, she met with SUSTAIN-sponsored family support groups and congratulated the couples in treatment for having made the right decision. She also encouraged the couples to remain on treatment to foster an HIV-free generation.
U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi also attended the EMTCT campaign events, where he pledged US support for the shared vision. "As the US, we will remain committed through the President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief. We will continue to improve the lives of women and children in Uganda. This financial year alone, the US has invested an additional $40 million for the acceleration of EMTCT," he said.
At supported hospitals, SUSTAIN, in partnership with the MOH, has established hospital-level systems for implementing the EMTCT Option B-Plus interventions, including the creation of family support groups and early infant diagnosis care points. The systems ensure enrollment and early initiation of HIV-infected infants on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) as well as follow-up and retention in care for HIV-infected pregnant and lactating mothers. In addition, HIV-positive mothers, their partners, and adolescents receive psychosocial support and information on HIV, are encouraged to practice prevention measures, and are started on ART. Married couples also get access to family planning services.
SUSTAIN supports 16 hospitals to implement Option B-Plus in Uganda. According to the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey Report 2012, HIV prevalence is higher among women (8.3%) than men (6.1%). Between October 2012 and September 2013, 5,160 women received ART while 3,500 were started on Option B-Plus. The prevalence of HIV transmission from mother to baby at 16 SUSTAIN-supported hospitals has dropped to 6.5%, compared to 8% in late 2012. The EMTCT strategy aims to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding to less than 5% nationally. It aims to reduce transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children by 90% by 2015.
What SUSTAIN Is Doing to Help
SUSTAIN works closely with the Ministry and project partners to accomplish four primary goals:
- Support the delivery of HIV and AIDS care and treatment services;
- Enhance the quality of care;
- Support increased stewardship by the MOH and various hospitals to sustain service delivery; and
- Support the MOH to implement selected HIV prevention interventions, including voluntary medical male circumcision and EMTCT.
SUSTAIN also participates in regional campaigns, like EMTCT, and in the celebration of key health days, like World AIDS Day, to support these efforts.
November 27, 2013