SAVING BABIES

With only 68% of HIV-exposed infants receiving ARVs for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) in 2010, HIV remains one of the leading causes of maternal and child mortality in South Africa. Furthermore, an estimated 72 200 children were newly infected with HIV in 2009 in spite of a relatively effective national PMTCT programme that boasts more than 95% of pregnant women being tested for HIV (2010 stats) and over 95% of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving ARVs for PMTCT in 2011.

Clearly, a lot still needs to be done to prevent babies from being born with HIV. From August to December, the SANAC Children’s Sector – the Yezingane Network – will run a national campaign in partnership with SANAC to promote the PMTCT programme. This is directly aligned with Strategic Objective 2.3 of the NSP 2012–2016 which aims to reduce transmission of HIV from mother to child to less than 2% at six weeks after birth and less than 5% at 18 months of age, by 2016. The launch coincides with the National Health Awareness Days of World Breastfeeding Week (1–7 August), National Women’s Day (9 August), and Women’s Month.

The campaign is based on evidence that shows that HIV-positive pregnant mothers can prevent their children from getting HIV by taking treatment before, during and after birth. Statistics show that only 38% of pregnant mothers were benefitting fully from the PMTCT service in 2011, with wide variations regionally. Evidence also strongly suggests that exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of six months provides the baby with the immune-boosting benefits of breast milk and significantly reduces risk of illness and death, whether the mother is HIV-positive or not. Studies show that only 20.4% of mothers of HIV-exposed infants practice exclusive breastfeeding, while the rest use formula milk either as part of mixed feeding or exclusive formula feeding.

Campaign Outline    
The objective of this campaign is to raise awareness of the PMTCT services available to pregnant and lactating mothers and to promote healthy behaviours, including safe breastfeeding practices and early and regular antenatal clinic visits. The campaign focuses on communicating three key messages: early booking and regular attendance of antenatal clinic visits, safe breastfeeding practices, and adherence to the newly-launched fixed dose combination (FDC) treatment regimen.
Four communication channels have been identified for this campaign to communicate messages to a wide variety of women which includes mothers and potential mothers across South Africa. These channels will include a media presence on radio and television and other electronic media such as the internet and social media, developing and disseminating print materials such as newspaper articles and posters and fact-sheets, and community meetings.

Campaign goals
The goal of the campaign is to create a generation of mothers who are aware. Knowing that HIV transmission from mother to child is preventable has the potential to greatly influence future generations. No child needs to be born with HIV; this campaign has a crucial part to play in educating mothers about the key role they play in realising the vision of an AIDS-free generation. Let’s do it for the women and children of our country. Let’s eliminate childhood HIV and keep mothers alive!

How you can get involved

  • Listen to Television and Radio interviews and programmes. Yezingane Network (Children’s Sector) members participating in the campaign will feature on various television and radio shows speaking about PMTCT. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on when these will be happening.
  • Hook into the Yezingane Network Facebook and Twitter pages to access awareness-raising and training materials as well as up to date campaign information on PMTCT. (www.facebook.com/yezingane and www.twitter.com/yezingane).
  • Ensure that PMTCT messages are integrated into your work. Hold staff in-service sessions on the topic, identify opportunities in your training programmes with staff or the public to share key messages, use community engagement opportunities to disseminate messages.
  • Feel free to enquire for further information about the campaign at the Yezingane Network Secretariat via email: yezingane@childrensrights.org.za.

Content supplied by the Yezingane Network, SANAC’s Children’s Sector

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