It has been two years since 22-year-old Judith Chitala gave birth to a bouncy baby boy, Nathan at a named health facility in Zambia’s capital Lusaka.
“I was afraid of going through child labor because I thought my baby would be born ill,” recounted Judith, who discovered that she was HIV-positive during an antenatal visit early in 2018.
However, Judith soon realized that one could still give birth to an HIV-negative child provided they complied with the health guidelines aimed at preventing mother to child transmission of the virus.
Around 1.4 million HIV infections among children the world over were prevented between 2010 and 2018 due to Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission programs. New infections among children aged 0-14 years in Zambia declined from an estimated 10,000 in 2010 to 6,000 in 2019, according to a UNAIDS report.
This accomplishment can be attributed to efforts of organizations like the Sekelela project, which has been providing support to pregnant women that are HIV-positive in the Ng’ombe compound, one of the poorer settlement areas in Zambia’s capital Lusaka.
Sekelela project, through its Orange Babies initiative, has been working to prevent pregnant mothers that are HIV-positive from passing on the virus to their unborn babies by ensuring that once a pregnant woman tests HIV-positive, they attend antenatal clinics at health facilities where they are monitored and given medication to suppress the virus so as to enable them to deliver HIV-free babies.
“We aim to bring down the percentage of HIV transmission from mother to child in Ngo’mbe compound to the lowest levels because reducing new HIV infections in children leads to a reduction in overall national infection rates,” said Bertha Gamela, Sekelela Project program manager.
Gamela further said the Sekelela project also provides a range of food supplements for infants born from HIV-positive mothers as well as other individuals living with HIV in the compound.
According to her, since the project started in 2016, cases of mother to child transmission of HIV have reduced substantially in the Ng’ombe compound as a result of the sensitization and education programs carried out under the Orange Babies initiative.
“More pregnant women that are HIV-positive in the compound are now free to come forward and access to the much-needed health care and support,” said Gamela. Enditem