95% of kids with virus were infected by their moms

SOUTH Africa lags behind other countries in strategies to combat the transmission of HIV from mother to child, an Aids expert said yesterday.

SOUTH Africa lags behind other countries in strategies to combat the transmission of HIV from mother to child, an Aids expert said yesterday.

Rodney Cowlin, managing director of Aids for Aids, an organisation that has tracked the prevalence of mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa for the past 11 years, also said HIV infection among women was rising.

"Fifty-fivepercent of HIV-infected adults in Africa are women while the prevalence of the disease has risen to a staggering 40percent among pregnant women in Southern Africa," Cowlin said.

"Of the 1900 children who become infected daily in Africa, 95percent of these are from their mothers."

Cowlin said while implementation strategies have been successful in other countries, South Africa still lagged behind.

"Transmission can occur during pregnancy, labour and delivery or breast-feeding," he said.

Without treatment, between 15 and 30percent of babies born to HIV-positive women will become infected during pregnancy and delivery. A further 5 to 20percent will become infected through breastfeeding.

"It's been established that mother-to-child transmission of HIV is related to the mother's viral load; as the mother's viral load increases, so does the risk of transmission," Cowlin said. Expectant mothers needed to understand the importance of knowing their status, he said.

"It starts with education on safe sex, best practice in terms of pregnancy and birth for those mothers who are HIV-positive; and for those who are not, how to avoid becoming infected in the future."

Other measures include delivery by caesarean section.

Infected mothers are also advised not to breastfeed.

X