HARARE – At least seven percent of pregnant women in Zimbabwe are still failing to access antenatal care due to religion and culture, putting their babies at risk of contracting HIV.
According to the Health ministry, the mothers are not only prohibited by religion and culture, but by economic circumstances as well.
“And certainly there are about seven percent of pregnant women who do not book for antenatal at all and therefore miss the opportunity for delivering HIV-free children.
“These include women of certain cultures and certain religions and some who are limited from accessing care because of the distance to the facilities and some because of cost,” deputy Health minister Aldrin Musiiwa said in Parliament last week.
He said this might hinder the country’s efforts to end paediatric Aids by 2020.
Musiiwa said of those who had accessed ANC, 98 percent of those who would have tested positive are initiated on antiretroviral treatment(ART).
“However, relative to all established HIV-positive pregnant women in need of ART including some who may not have come for the ANC, the country population coverage for ARVs for prevention from mother to child transmission drops to 85 percent,” he said.
Under the antenatal programme, pregnant women receive group education sessions about the advantages of knowing their HIV status and also get information on how they will receive antiretroviral treatment for life.
Musiiwa said in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, acceptance for HIV testing is very high, with 99 percent of pregnant women presenting for antenatal clinic accepting to test.