BARBADOS’ PMTCT PROGRAMME A SUCCESS

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Minister of Health, Donville Inniss (right) in discussion with President of the Barbados Pharmaceutical Society, Bandele Serrano(left), Assistant Director of the Barbados Drug Service, Pamela Payne-Wilson and President of the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists, Basil Scantlebury.

 

The Prevention of the Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) programme, which was started in Barbados in 1995, has been linked to a substantial reduction in the rate of mother-to-child transmission from 27.1%, prior to 1995, to 2.5% in 2006.

This disclosure came today as Minister of Health Donville Inniss addressed the start of a two-day symposium for regional and international pharmacists on “The Prevention and Management of Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV” at the Grand Barbados Beach Resort.

He said, “This highly significant decline was due to a high rate of HIV testing of pregnant women coupled with comprehensive PMTCT interventions including providing mothers with anti-retrovirals.”

While noting that well over 90% of new HIV infections, among infants and young children, occur through mother-to-child transmission, the Health Minister said, “Without any interventions, between 20 to 45% of infants born to HIV Positive mothers become infected, with an estimated risk of five to 10% during pregnancy, 10 to 20% during labour and delivery and five to 20% through breast-feeding.”

And, he added, “More than 1400 children under 15 years of age become infected with HIV every day, most through mother-to-child transmission. Children account for more than 10% of all new HIV infections globally.”

Minister Inniss also noted that since 1998, the international community had recognised the magnitude of this risk and sought to reinforce countries’ efforts to increase the prevention of mother to child transmission programmes. He said, “As one of the first clinical HIV interventions to be widely implemented in resource constrained settings, PMTCT programmes helped to create the foundation for the roll-out of anti-retroviral therapy for all persons living with HIV who need treatment. PMTCT initiatives also galvanised political support for the broadening of the global response to the HIV epidemic.”

While noting that Government had recently approved a Policy on PMTCT in Barbados, the Health Minister urged both regional and international pharmacists to see themselves as vital members of the healthcare team and the building of capacity in the world of HIV management as essential.

“We must stress the importance of continuing education and higher levels of training for all care givers, including the pharmacists, who invariably become key advisors and counsellors to the patients,” he said.

The two-day workshop on PMTCT is expected to see the development of a Bridgetown Statement on PMTCT from the perspective of the pharmacists.

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