Transmission of HIV from a mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), remains one of the most frequent modes of HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa. Six percent of pregnant women receiving antenatal care in Uganda are HIV-infected. To reduce transmission risk, these women and their infants need both antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and the appropriate care and support services to help them adopt risk-reducing behaviours. MTCT is by far the most common way that children become infected with HIV (90%). Without treatment, the likelihood of HIV passing from mother-to-child is 15 to 45%. However, antiretroviral treatment (ART) and other effective interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) can reduce this risk to below 5%.
The Chalker Foundation for Africa is supporting Transform Africa’s PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) programme, working in the islands region of Lake Victoria in Uganda. The majority of the population depends on fishing as their main source of livelihood and many of the fishermen leave their spouses off-shore caring for the family and doing other fish-related activities. Fishermen have a tendency of engaging in risky sexual activities which fuel the spread of HIV, and these include men sharing sexual partners, concurrent multi-sexual relationships, unprotected sex, transactional sex, alcoholism, gender-based violence and drug abuse. As a result, the current HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are estimated at 25 – 30%, compared to the national average of 7 – 8%. District health records show that HIV/AIDs prevalence among mothers is 16% and that safe delivery is at 17%, and 90% of the safe deliveries are on the main island where accessibility to health units is possible.
With the support from the Chalker Foundation for Africa, the project aims to significantly increase awareness of the PMTCT programme across the region, achieve a 50% increase in the number of expectant mothers attending antenatal clinics regularly, and an increased uptake of the comprehensive PMTCT programme.