Examining key??statements contained in the??policy document on the Prevention-of Mother-To-Child Transmission, launched today at the UN House, Hastings Christ Church, are (from back left): UNICEF Representative in Barbados, Tom Olsen; Senior Medical Officer of Health (Communicable Diseases),??Dr. Anton Best; (at front) : Minister of Health, Donville Inniss and Consultant Paediatrician at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital,??Dr. Anne St. John.
Barbados today launched its policy on the Prevention-of-Mother-To-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, with Health Minister Donville Inniss acknowledging the country’s commitment to the global goal of improving PMTCT.
The policy document was officially launched at the United Nations (UN) House at Hastings, Christ Church and Minister Inniss commended the international agency for its assistance. He noted that the country’s policy was guided by that entity’s comprehensive approach to the prevention of HIV infection in infants and young children, adopted in 2003.
He said: "Barbados is expected to scale up PMTCT to improve maternal and child survival by achieving universal access to comprehensive PMTCT services.?? "He added this would "pave the way towards an HIV-free and AIDS-free generation by 2015."??
Noting that prior to 1995 the rate of HIV transmission from infected mother to child was 27.1 per cent, the Health Minister stated, "with international best practices, including the provision of Anti-Retroviral Therapy, that transmission rate, I’m proud to say, is now down to 2.5 per cent."
Mr. Inniss, however, cautioned that while the country had made significant achievements in its PMTCT programme, it should not rest on its laurels, but seek to achieve universal access to PMTCT services. To this end, he explained that the Health Ministry was seeking to capitalise on successes, address the deficits or gaps that remained and provide expanded coordinated efforts to improve PMTCT.
He indicated this would address three components, namely the Guidelines on Treatment for the Prevention-of-Mother-to-Child-Transmission to strengthen the treatment programme for HIV positive mothers.?? This, he added would assist in the development and implementation of a national training curriculum for PMTCT and the PMTCT Policy to guide the entire health sector of Barbados. Furthermore, Mr. Inniss contended that it would facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive programme for the prevention and control of transmission of HIV from mother to child.
The components of the UN’s strategic approach, he said, spoke to the primary prevention of HIV among women of childbearing age and among future parents; eliminating unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV; preventing HIV transmission from women living with HIV to their infant; and providing appropriate treatment, care and support for parents and their families.
The Health Minister maintained that the over-arching goal of the national policy for PMTCT was "to guide the health sector of Barbados in effectively implementing a: comprehensive programme for the prevention and control of transmission of HIV from mother to child."
However, he pointed out that all individuals were adversely affected in some way by HIV/AIDS. The Health Minister stressed: "It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped, coloured and stigmatised our response. We have long recognised that money must be spent on this disease, but there must also be a change in the hearts and minds; in cultures and attitudes and Government cannot solve this problem on its own."