South Africa’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Programme has severe shortcomings. HIV patients are missing out on opportunities to receive a key intervention namely the nevirapine tablet.
The study’s qualitative research with women who had participated in the public sector PMTCT programme revealed critical failures, in testing expectant mothers for HIV and giving them the results of the test, and in a lack of intervention, the main goal to help protect the unborn child from infection. A 50% reduction in transmission of HIV from mother to child is possible with the use of the nevirapine.
58 HIV-positive women was interviewed, whether or not there were missed opportunities for participation in prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.
Fifteen of the interviewees missed out on nevirapine, because of health systems failures. Of the 15 women, six women were not tested for HIV during antenatal care. Two who were tested received no results and seven were tested and received results but did not receive Nevirapine.
HIV testing should be strengthened to enable access to preventative interventions. A combination of two or three antiretroviral drugs starting during pregnancy and continuing for one week after delivery should replace the single dose regimen to improve uptake as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).