Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Reducing the Rate of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Africa

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Reducing the Rate of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Africa

Article excerpt

Abstract: Currently there are about twenty four million HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) cases on the continent of Africa. Over the past two years, many health care professionals have been in a stage of denial concerning this problem. According to researchers attending the XIII International AIDS Conference held in Durban, South Africa, the world became aware that cost-effective strategies are needed desperately to stop the rapid spread of HIV/ AIDS in Africa. Recent studies suggest that modest antiretroviral drug therapies for HIV- positive pregnant women can reduce one-half of the risk of HIV transmission to the unborn child. Challenges to the governments of Africa such as the high cost of drugs, lack of health care infrastructure and cultural barriers, priority to treat only pregnant women has been a difficult decision, while other infected persons with HIV are not treated.

Key Words: HIV/AIDS, Antiretroviral Drugs, Africa, Transmission

Pediatric HIV infection is on the verge of being eliminated in the United States and other developed countries, but, in sub-Saharan Africa it has become a common cause of hospital admissions and a major contributor to childhood mortality (Soderlund et al., 1999). Recent studies suggest that modest antiretroviral drug therapies for HIV-positive pregnant women can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to the infant by as much as fifty percent

(Soderlund et al., 1999)(Ezzell, 2000). However, the high costs of drugs, the lack of health care infrastructure, and the cultural barriers limit what can be done to stop this growing problem.

UNAIDS, indicates that of the 34 million HIV/AIDS cases in the world, 24 million or 70%, are in Africa. The number of AIDS related deaths is estimated at 5,500 a day, according to the United Nations (Finkel, 2000). In addition, life expectancies continue to drop dramatically compared to life expectancies without HIV/AIDS. Presently, there are more than 10 million orphans living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the three million children that have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic, 90% were born in Africa (Marseille et al., 1999). HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS now takes three times as many lives as the next most common cause of death (Mukherjee, 2000). The rate of infection among young women has increased to over 20% indicates that more unborn children are at risk. Until recently, the growing epidemic has been largely ignored by the outside world. Western governments failed to provide assistance to the African countries struggling to find a solution to the growing numbers of infected people.

The recent offer of low cost drugs to treat infected people may prove to be too little much too late (Ezzell, 2000). Without a clue in sight, the African governments have been slow to react to the crisis. Recently, South African President Thabo Mbeki claimed that HIV might not directly cause AIDS. The assertions of President Mbeki presented a resistance within the African culture to accept the idea that major changes to their health care system and way of life are needed to rid the continent of HIV/AIDS.


The number of infected people in Africa is among the highest in the world, and governments are in major crises in prioritizing their health care budgets. Many countries are limited to spending four dollars per day per person each year on health care. As a result, the finances needed to provide the life saving antiretroviral treatments to everyone are unavailable (Marseille et al., 1999). An example would include, despite the 80 percent reduction in drug prices offered last year, the cost medication for a year is still $2,900. The "triple therapy" would cost about eight dollars per day for three medications. Each year of life "gained" over the next five years would cost about $15,000 (Brown, 2000). The South African Health Minister, TshabalalaMsimang stated, "that if she used her budget exclusively to buy medicines, she would be able to purchase only enough for 120,000 individuals. …

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