On 31st July 2015, hundreds of people from Teso region gathered at Soroti Boma grounds to participate in the launch of elimination of Mother to Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV, where the First Lady of Uganda Hon. Janet Museveni was the guest of honour. The launch came months towards the 2015 deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goal 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases where eMTCT prevents the spread of HIV through primary prevention in women of childbearing age, averts vertical transmission and ensures treatment for both mothers and infants living with HIV.
The timing of the launch was perfect – Soroti RRH supported by the USAID/SUSTAIN project selected six children born to HIV positive mothers but have tested HIV negative to give ground breaking testimonies to the First Lady and the public about their status. The testimonies changed the conversation about AIDS epidemic demonstrating to the crowds that an HIV free generation is possible.
One of the HIV free babies born to HIV positive mothers in care at Soroti RRH giving a testimony about her status @URC 2015 USAID/SUSTAIN project /Julian Natukunda
The First Lady Janet Museveni together with Hon. Minister for Primary Health Care, Sarah Opendi and other officials took pictures with about 50 children who had been lined by different implementing partners to show the public the early benefits of the EMTCT program.
In her speech, the First lady appreciated efforts of mothers, implementing partners, healthcare workers and community in supporting the eMTCT program and called upon each individual to become a champion for the AIDS free generation.
“This is such a beautiful testimony by the children in their own words, proclaiming their mothers as their heroes because they made it possible for them to be born HIV free”, said Janet Museveni, First lady of the Republic of Uganda.
The First Lady of Uganda Hon. Janet Museveni (in yellow dress with hat) and Minister for Primary Healthcare Hon. Sarah Opendi (extreme right) taking a picture with HIV free babies, their parents and caretakers @URC 2015 USAID/SUSTAIN project /Julian Natukunda
The USAID/SUSTAIN project - one of the implementing partners in the region, supported Soroti RRH to set up two exhibition tents where they showcased and sensitized the public about services related to eMTCT available at the hospital including antenatal, family planning and nutrition services. The hospital also partnered with Uganda Red Cross Society to provide First Aid services at the launch event.
Ensuring virtual eMTCT has become increasingly important since the introduction of Option B plus in 2012 in Uganda. Soroti hospital showcased their progress towards achieving virtual elimination where the positivity rate which was at 7.1% between October-December 2012 reduced up to 3.6% in January-March 2015. However, between April-June 2015, no exposed infants tested HIV positive on the DNA/PCR at the hospital.
Likewise, all 12 SUSTAIN-supported hospitals for prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV have made impressive headway in moving closer to zero infections from Mother to Child. By end of June 2015, project-supported hospitals had achieved an average 3.26 percent less than the national virtual elimination target of 5 percent. The reasons behind are attributed to the following;
- Performing mandatory HIV testing for all women attending antenatal services. Those who test HIV positive are initiated on treatment or linked to care at the nearest healthcare facility
- Creation of Mother-Baby care points where both mother and baby receive treatment and and are monitored regularly. Exposed infants are tested regularly and results given to mothers or caregivers.
- Proactive counselling and follow-up of mothers through phone calls and reminders before the due appointment date
- Creation of family support groups for HIV positive mothers to reduce stigma and initiate peer-to-peer support
Healthcare workers representing Soroti RRH showcase ART, Family Planning and antenatal services at the event @URC 2015 USAID/SUSTAIN project /Julian Natukunda
Nutrition Exhibition tent @URC 2015 USAID/SUSTAIN project /Julian Natukunda
Written by; Julian Natukunda, Communications Specialist with contributions from Dr. Maureen Kwikiriza PMTCT Technical Advisor USAID/SUSTAIN project