LIBERIA: Pregnant HIV-positive women forgoing care

Pregnant women have shied away from treatment in Liberia (file photo)
MONROVIA, 20 January 2009 (IRIN) - More than half of the pregnant women who test positive for HIV do not return for counselling and treatment, according to Liberia’s National AIDS Control Programme (NACP).

The government reported that because of high stigma and low follow-up, only half of the pregnant women identified as HIV-positive from July 2008 to January 2009 received treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission.

“When they were told of their status, some of them never returned, " said NACP’s deputy director Janjay Jones. "This is due to the high rate of stigma in Liberia. In other countries, people with HIV/AIDS go about their normal business and they are integrated into society, but we are far from reaching that point.”

But the latest figures represent an improvement over 2007 when 40 percent of HIV-positive women came back for treatment.

Up to 64 percent of the estimated 100,000 people living with HIV in Liberia are women, according to NACP. But Jones said HIV data is weak. Using 2007 data from the Demographic and Health Survey, he said the official HIV infection rate for women is less than two percent, but that the rate might be higher.

HIV prevalence among pregnant women could be as high as 13 percent in the southeast of the country, according to the government.

Part of Liberia’s recently-approved US$78 million grant from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will go toward increasing the use of antiretroviral treatments by pregnant women to prevent HIV transmission to their babies.

Scheduled to begin in July 2009, additional medical staff are to receive training on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) to reach more pregnant women.

But the shortage of health care staff following Liberia’s 14-year civil war has left the country’s health system severely understaffed.

As of January 2009, there are fewer than 80 doctors – Liberian and international – serving a population of more than three million.


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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