Safeguarding your baby
It is a tragedy of immense proportions that thousands of unborn babies-about 40,000 to 50,000-risk being infected with HIV by their mothers every year, according to the Kenya National Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections Control Programme (NASCOP).
The sad thing is that the unborn victims are as innocent as many mothers; most of whom are not even aware that they are HIV positive, having taken tests early in their pregnancies that often prove negative. So when the virus is passed to them as the pregnancy advances, they hardly suspect such an eventuality and lead their lives as business as usual.
Get tested regularly
Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) is when an HIV- infected mum passes the virus to her baby. This can occur during pregnancy, labour and delivery, or breast-feeding.
Available statistics indicate that without treatment, around 15-30 per cent of babies born to HIV positive mums will become infected with HIV during pregnancy and delivery. A further 5 to 20 per cent will become infected through breast-feeding.
When a mother is HIV positive, a Caesarean section is usually done to protect the baby from direct contact with her blood and other bodily fluids. If the mother is taking a combination antiretroviral therapy, then a Caesarean section will often not be recommended because the HIV transmission risk is likely to be low. Caesarean delivery is often recommended if the mother has a high level of HIV in her blood.
Infant feeding advice
The government has reviewed available scientific evidence regarding infant and young child feeding and has concluded that breastfeeding with appropriate use of anti retroviral drugs for mother and child is the best option for overall well being and survival of HIV exposed children. In its Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission campaign, NASCOP advises the following measures:
- All HIV negative mothers or those whose HIV status is unknown should be encouraged and supported to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue doing so with appropriate complementary feeds introduced thereafter.
- All HIV positive mothers who choose to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months and continue doing so with appropriate complementary feeds thereafter. Their babies should be provided with Nevirapine prophylaxis.
- HIV positive women who meet the Affordable Feasible Accessible Safe Sustainable (AFASS) criteria and choose not to breastfeed should be counselled and supported to do exclusive replacement feeding for the first six months and appropriate complementary feeds introduced thereafter. Their babies should be provided with Nevirapine prophylaxis.
- In special circumstances determined by clinicians involving infants who cannot breastfeed e.q orphans or abandoned babies or where the mother has a condition like mastitis preventing breastfeeding, the infant should be provided with exclusive replacement feeding with appropriate complimentary feeds introduced thereafter if determined by the clinician that not doing so will expose the infant to HIV infection.
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