Churches a good place for HIV test­ing, treat­ment in Africa

Daily Trust - - HEALTH -

Churches and other faith-based cen­ters are good lo­ca­tions to of­fer HIV test­ing and treat­ment for preg­nant women in iso­lated ar­eas of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, a new study shows.

World­wide, about 87 per­cent of preg­nant women with HIV and more than 90 per­cent of chil­dren with HIV live in subSa­ha­ran Africa, ac­cord­ing to UNAIDS, a United Na­tions health care pro­gram that tar­gets HIV and AIDS.

Re­searchers found that preg­nant women in hard-tore­ach and ru­ral ar­eas of Nige­ria who were of­fered pre­na­tal screen­ing for dis­eases such as HIV, malaria and syphilis at a monthly church-run baby shower (part of a pro­gram called the Healthy Be­gin­ning Ini­tia­tive) were 11 times more likely to get tested for HIV than those who were en­cour­aged to get rou­tine HIV test­ing at lo­cal health fa­cil­i­ties.

The study was pub­lished Oct. 14 in the The Lancet Global Health.

Even though sim­ple, in­ex­pen­sive and highly ef­fec­tive treat­ments to pre­vent mother-to-child trans­mis­sion of HIV are be­com­ing more avail­able, one-third of HIVin­fected women do not start treat­ment dur­ing preg­nancy, re­sult­ing in about 210,000 new HIV in­fec­tions in chil­dren ev­ery year world­wide.

Poor ac­cess to HIV screen­ing is one rea­son for that, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers.

“Most preg­nant women in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa ac­cess HIV screen­ing through the health care sys­tem. But in many coun­tries like Nige­ria, only a third of de­liv­er­ies take place in hos­pi­tals and less than 3 per­cent of health care fa­cil­i­ties have es­tab­lished ser­vices for the preven­tion of moth­erto-child trans­mis­sion,” said study au­thor Dr. Echezona Ezeanolue, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the School of Medicine and Com­mu­nity Health Sciences at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas.

“We have been look­ing for new ways to reach out and of­fer sus­tain­able com­mu­nity-based test­ing pro­grams to preg­nant women, to elim­i­nate new HIV in­fec­tions among chil­dren,” he said in a jour­nal news re­lease.

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