HARARE – At least 10 000 children are being infected annually with HIV, with most of the infections through mother-to-child transmission, Vice President Joice Mujuru said yesterday.
In an address to the eMTCT week and launch of lifelong treatment for HIV positive pregnant and breastfeeding women or Option B + at Madzivire Secondary School in Chikomba District yesterday, Mujuru said government was worried that 1,3 million Zimbabweans were living with HIV and a significant number were children.
The Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme in Zimbabwe began in 2009 by using the World Health Organisation (WHO)guidelines of single dose nevirapine or Option A.
In April 2012, WHO released an update on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating pregnant women and preventing the spread of the virus to infants.
The programme recommended the country to move from Option A to provision of triple ARV drugs to all infected pregnant and breast feeding women in the antenatal clinic setting, dubbed Option B or continuing the therapy for life regardless of the CD4 count what is called Option B+.
“As government it is of concern to us that we are losing our children at such a rate,” Mujuru said.
“The statics that we have, over 10 000 new infections in children every year is not acceptable. Of that figure, 90 percent of them are cases through mother-to-child transmission.
“Our HIV prevalence rate stands at 15 percent while 1, 3 million of our people are living with the virus out of which approximately 178 000 are children under the age of 15 which is disturbing.”
With Zimbabwe ranked as one of 22 countries with the highest number of pregnant women living with HIV, Mujuru said government was committed to the global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive.
The vice president said the statistics were staggering and if not contained would see the country lose its economically-active population, impacting economic development.
She urged stakeholders to help sustain and strengthen government efforts in their response to the pandemic.
Government, through the National Aids Council in partnership with UNAids Unicef and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF)among others had adopted an operational plan for a nationwide transition from PMTCT Option A to Option B+.
“I however, stand here satisfied that we have as a country managed to limit the prevalence of HIV from 21 percent in 2005 to 16,1 percent in 2009,” Mujuru said.
“It was a result of government’s deliberate efforts to scale up antiretroviral treatment through the taxing of a three percent Aids Levy on every worker. There is political will and commitment by government to the health of our people.”
The launch of the programme was attended by Cabinet ministers including Health minister David Parirenyatwa, Mashonaland East minister of State Simbaneuta Mudarikwa, EGPAF country director Agnes Madaiva, Particia Mbetu of Ophid and UNAid director Michael Burton.
Chikomba Central MP Felix Mhona received a donation of clutches and nappies for Chivhu General Hospital from Mudarikwa.