West Nile Region Leads in Scaling up eMTCT
The West Nile region is registering impressive results in denting the spread of HIV from mothers to their unborn babies.The region surpassed their set targets of increasing health services to pregnant women by 10 percent each month.The increase in maternal and child health services was boosted by the Campaign championed by the First Lady of Uganda, Honorable Janet Museveni to have babies born HIV free.
The nation-wide campaign which focused on the West Nile region in the months of March to June 2014, climaxed on Friday 13th June, 2014 in Arua district. The campaign aimed to increase HIV counseling and testing among Ugandans especially pregnant mothers, in order to ensure that children are born HIV free.
As a result of the three-month long Elimination of Mother to Child transmission (EMTCT) campaign, the transmission of HIV from HIV positive mothers to their babies during pregnancy, labor, delivery and breastfeeding dropped from 8.3 percent in February to 4.3 percent by end of May 2014. During this period 148 HIV positive pregnant mothers were given health care services to enable them to live longer and remain productive in society. Similarly, the proportion of male partners testing with their pregnant women during antenatal clinics increased from 42 percent to 49 percent in parity with the national target of male-partner-involvement of 50 percent.
The proportion of pregnant women counseled and tested for HIV increased by 17 percent by end of March 2014. More so, the number of mothers giving birth at a health facility rose by 13 percent in the same period. In addition, the number of pregnant mothers attending antenatal services also increased from 8,644 in February to 9,361in May.
Speaking at the occasion was the Champion of the Elimination of Mother to Child transmission (EMTCT) Honorable Janet Museveni. She hailed the West Nile region for impressive achievements in increasing HIV counseling, testing, treatment and related health services. She welcomed the innovation of getting men involved in the health of their wives, using the ‘Pregnant mothers’ contest.’ The First Lady handed over 10 motorcycle ambulances donated by United Nations Population Fund to Arua and Yumbe districts to transport pregnant mothers to health facilities.
Honorable Janet Museveni particularly thanked the implementing partner for HIV/AIDS in West Nile region, Baylor Uganda for effectively extending maternal, child care and HIV/AIDs services to communities in this region. She thanked the Government of Uganda for its role in supporting HIV/AIDS initiatives and for the provision of policies to help reduce the incidence of HIV. The EMTCT Champion acknowledged the continued support provided by various development partners towards ensuring that babies are born free of HIV.
The First Lady also echoed concerns raised by the Director General of Uganda AIDS Commission, Dr. Christine Ondoa regarding complacent sexual behavior among some youth, adolescents and married couples as one of the reasons new HIV infections rates are still high in Uganda. Mama Janet Museveni advised parents to talk to their children about HIV/AIDS. “It is useless for a parent to protect themselves from HIV /AIDS only to find out that their child has contracted it. We should put the message of Prevention at the forefront in the fight of HIV/AIDS,” she said. She advocated for Abstinence among youth, faithfulness among couples, and the use of condoms when necessary.
The climax of the EMTCT Campaign in the West Nile region started with a Consultative Group Meeting hosted by the First Lady, Mama Janet Museveni and organized by the Organization of the First Ladies against HIV/AIDS-OAFLA. During this meeting, a status report for EMTCT was presented by Baylor Uganda. The technical meeting was attended by key leaders, local governments and municipality officials, civil society organizations, technical experts from the eight districts – Arua, Maracha, Koboko, Yumbe, Adjumani, Moyo, Nebbi, and Zombo. In attendance was the Minister for Health, Honorable Ruhakana Rugunda, and Honorable Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Primary Health Care. Present were key Government officials, and development partners. Later, the First Lady joined thousands of people in West Nile who turned up for the EMTCT Public Rally which was held in the grounds of Arua Hill Primary School.