Monday, April 19, 2010

An earlier start to ARV treatment for pregnant women

HIV-positive pregnant women will now be given anti-retro-viral drugs earlier. This comes from updated guidelines from the World Health Organization.

Pregnant women who are HIV-positive willbegin taking the drugs on the 14th week of their pregnancy. The treatment will continue on until the child is finished breastfeeding. The WHO hopes that the earlier start will give the infant a better chance of survival.

From the East African, writer Halima Abdallah fills us in on the updated treatment.

The revised guidelines, based on those of 2006, recommend that all HIV-positive pregnant women be given ARVs starting at 14 weeks and continuing through the end of the breastfeeding, to reduce the risk of HIV transmission and improve the infant’s chance of survival.

An earlier start to antiretroviral treatment boosts the immune system and reduces the risks of HIV-related diseases and deaths.

The 2006 guidelines recommended antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the third trimester (beginning at 28 weeks). At the time, there was insufficient evidence on the protective effect of ARVs during breastfeeding. However since then, studies and trials have demonstrated that starting ARV earlier reduces rates of death and disease and increases the efficacy of ARVs in preventing transmission to the infant while breastfeeding.

The latest guideline issued in November 2009, recommends that mothers should continue breastfeeding even when they are positive as they take the drugs with their babies.

“We did a study in National Referral Hospital Mulago and found that the risks of death were higher in those children who were not breastfed because they were prone to diseases like diarrhoea,” Ministry of Health Principal Medical Officer in charge of Child Health Jessica Sabiti said.

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