A pilot project in Rwanda on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection has registered a high rate of acceptance and has helped improve the chances of HIV positive mothers giving birth to HIV negative children, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported on Tuesday.
Rwanda is one of eight pilot countries in eastern and southern Africa to have participated in the project in 1999, involving trials for use of antiretrovirals (ARVs) to minimise the possibility of HIV infection from mother to child.
"At the start of the trial UNICEF did not know whether mothers would agree to be tested for HIV when they attended antenatal clinics," UNICEF reported. "If they tested positive, would they accept preventive treatment for their unborn babies by going onto a course of ARVs before during and after the birth?"
The head of UNICEF's HIV/AIDS programme, Dr Robert Limlim, was quoted as saying: "By December 2000 it was clear that we had a very high rate of acceptance. More than 95 percent of the mothers were tested. And more than 85 percent of the ones who were positive agreed to join the programme."
He added: "Even more exciting were the initial results of the programme. Two years after its inception only 3.8 percent of the children born to HIV-positive mothers were infected. Had there been no intervention, the rate of infection among the newborn babies would have averaged 25 percent."
UNICEF reported that based on these results, it would expand the programme to health centres.
UNICEF supports 14 of the 54 prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT) sites across the country. The sites are run by the Rwandan government. The PMTCT programme is at one with UNICEF's core objective of child survival and healthy development, UNICEF reported.
"Alongside nationwide testing for pregnant mothers, UNICEF's goal is to ensure that at least four out of five HIV-positive mothers and their babies are treated with antiretrovirals. By 2006 at least 70 percent of mothers on the programme should have access to a carting support network of counselling, home visits, information on how to manage AIDS-related diseases and support from their community," UNICEF said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International issued a report on Tuesday to coincide with events marking the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda in which it said women continued to die from diseases related to HIV/AIDS, which some of them contracted as a result of rape during the genocide.
"Ten years later, the consequences of the violence have not been dealt with adequately, neither by the international community nor by the Rwandan government," Amnesty said in the report focusing on the impact of sexual violence perpetrated during the genocide.
Amnesty said survivors of rape and their families faced human rights violations that themselves led to more violations.
"Survivors of sexual violence may have contracted HIV/AIDs, as a result of which they and their families often face stigma, which can in turn lead to loss of employment, difficulty in asserting property rights and a loss of civil and political rights," Amnesty reported.
[The full Amnesty International report is available online at: www.amnesty.org]
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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