Using Community Grapevine to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission
While the methods for preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV are well-known and highly effective, the process begins with an HIV test. And according to March data from the National Committee for the Fight Against AIDS, roughly one in five Cameroonian women who attend prenatal checkups refuse such testing.
This June, UNICEF’s Cameroon office published figures showing the HIV rate among pregnant women in the central African country is 7.6 percent. Nearly two-thirds of pregnant women do not receive prenatal care, UNICEF said. Further, many women go to private clinics or small birthing centers in poor areas rather than public health centers where PMTCT is more routinely offered.
To protect the babies of women who decline testing, “We have firm instructions,” said Dr. Emilien Fouda, director of the public hospital in the Cité-Verte district of Yaoundé. “In the birthing room, we systematically screen all women whose HIV status is unknown and immediately administer PMTCT if necessary.”
Organizations like No Limit For Women work to combat these challenges by educating women in the community about PMTCT. “We try to reach as many women as possible by taking part in meetings of various women’s associations. We urge these women to go to public hospitals and stay in touch with them by means of home visits,” said Odette Etamè, the group’s president. Women who know they have HIV and want to have children but have concerns also are a target.
“The plan is to create at least one community support group in each of Cameroon’s 179 health districts,” said Etamè, thanks to funding assistance from the national health ministry, Care International, and UNICEF. “This is already under way in some districts, but it is not yet in effect everywhere,” she noted.
Date of Publication
Anne Mireille Nzouankeu
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