Mother-to-child care the key to falling infections

Sunday December 2 2012

By BRIAN YONGA [email protected]

Mary Awuor, 23, checks into the Orodi district hospital in Ndhiwa, Homa Bay County with her nine-month old baby.

She has walked less than a kilometre from her home to the hospital where she queues with her baby for prevention of mother-to-child transmission treatment (PMTCT).

Mary tested HIV-positive eight years ago, and two of her children died from the virus. But thanks to the decentralisation of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) clinics to remote areas and the integration of PMTCT and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services her third baby has tested negative.

“I lost two of my children to the virus because there was no one to advise me on how I to raise my children in the right way; moreover the hospital was almost 30 kilometres away,” she said.

For years, the only hospital in the region that offered PMTCT and MCH services was the Ndhiwa district hospital which is about 30 kilometres from Orodi. Getting to Ndhiwa was also a challenge because of the poor state of roads and the expense.

This meant that for many years HIV-positive mothers in Ndhiwa district could not access the services to protect their HIV-exposed infants (HEI) from testing positive due to the failure to attend postnatal care classes.

“I gave birth to my two children at the Ndhiwa district hospital, and when I was told they were positive, I was afraid and very saddened by the news. The fear made me keep away from the hospital, and I ended up losing them,” she adds.

The situation was bad in the district in October 2010; the HIV prevalence rate stood at 35.9 per cent with new infections registered among new-born babies accounting for half of the numbers.

But as a result of the MCH facilities in many remote areas and the integration of the services, the prevalence rate has come down drastically.

But according to Dr Justus Ocholla of District Aids Sexually Transmitted Infections Organization (Dasco) Kenya, in 2011 the prevalence rate stood at 22 per cent while by October this year it had remarkably come down to 13.9 per cent.

“The integration models have worked wonders in these remote areas; the staff at these centres have been trained and are committed to ensuring that the rate comes further down,” Dr Ocholla said.

The MCH clinics were opened in 2010. According to Hellen Anayngo, the nurse in charge at Orodi dispensary, the number of mothers visiting the institution has increased since 2010 when the  number of mothers who visited the health facility in a month was about 10. But today the hospital reveives between 20 to 30 mothers in a month.

“This has greatly decreased the number of deaths of new- born babies because the mothers are given care right from birth up to 18 months,” Ms Anyango said.

Each mother has a file at the hospital where they are monitored closely until the babies are out of danger. The hospital has also got peer counsellors who are charged with the task of following up on mothers who fail to keep up with the treatments.