UGANDA—Kayunga district health officials are concerned about the rising number of HIV infections among children due to an increasing number of mothers who prefer Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) over qualified health personnel for childbirth.
These details emerged during a consultative meeting organized by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) at the district headquarters on Wednesday.
Notable attendees included Dr. Olive Kacukus, the Kayunga Deputy District Health Officer, Ms. Petua Babirye, the EOC Principal Education and Training Officer, Ms. Safia Nalule, the EOC chairperson, and Mr. Abdul Batambuze, the Kayunga Chief Administrative Officer.
The EOC meeting, titled “Taking EOC to the People,” also brought together Kayunga district technical staff, representatives of people with disabilities and the elderly, along with civil society members.
Dr. Kacukus pointed out that approximately three percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers who choose TBAs contract the virus.
She also expressed concern about the growing number of children born with HIV in the district, emphasizing that these cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission persist due to mothers’ preference for TBAs over qualified medical staff at health facilities.
Despite the seemingly small number of cases, Dr. Kacukus stressed the importance of eliminating them entirely.
She emphasized the necessity of researching to understand why mothers prefer TBA-assisted births over qualified medical personnel.
Dr. Kacukus highlighted that mother-to-child HIV transmission could be prevented through the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) program.
She went on to disclose that the district’s mother-to-child HIV transmission rate stands at 6.2 per cent, surpassing the national HIV prevalence of 5.5 per cent.
Furthermore, Dr. Kacukus revealed that 15 to 70 percent of mother-to-child HIV transmissions occur during childbirth, while 15 to 100 percent happen during breastfeeding.
Ms. Babirye on her part criticized educational institutions for failing to provide necessary care, including a proper diet, to HIV-positive children.
She argued that this oversight negatively impacts the children, asserting that inclusive development cannot be achieved when 38 percent of the population lives in absolute poverty and 3 percent of children have never attended school.
Ms. Nalule conveyed in a speech read by Ms Petua Babirye that the Parish Development Model (PDM) aims to promote inclusiveness by not only fostering wealth creation but also bringing services closer to the people.
In response, Mr. Batambuze criticized the EOC for issuing directives to local governments without providing accompanying funds.
He emphasized the challenges faced by local governments when tasked with building schools or health centers in specific locations without adequate funds.
Ms. Babirye, in turn, called on local governments to plan and budget effectively to prevent such challenges from arising.
In Uganda, women are disproportionately affected by HIV. Out of 1.4 million people living with the disease, 860,000 are women and 80,000 are children.
As part of the drive to reduce the number of babies born with HIV, Uganda has a robust prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program.
It involves following up women of reproductive age living with, or at risk of acquiring, HIV from their reproductive years, throughout pregnancy and to the end of the breastfeeding period.
The PMTCT entails a well-coordinated, multi-sectoral approach and strong collaboration between the Government of Uganda, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in the United States.
This initiative has resulted in a 77% decrease in HIV infections among neonates, from 20,000 cases in 2010 to 5900 cases in 2022.
Uganda implemented high-impact HIV preventive measures that are cost-effective and reach as many people as feasible in 2000 as part of its HIV prevention efforts.
The PMTCT program covers all pregnant women who have HIV or are at risk of developing the infection from preconception to 18 months after birth.
WHO has created training tools and materials in collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to support the effectiveness of the PMTCT program.
This comprises a complete HIV/AIDS care training package that incorporates PMTCT and has previously trained over 60 trainers to increase PMTCT program implementation in health facilities around the country.
All of these activities are aimed at eradicating AIDS as a public health problem by 2030 by preventing mother-to-child transmission and minimizing new HIV infections among newborns.
These efforts, too, are aimed at identifying risk factors for new HIV infections, particularly among adolescent girls and young women.