Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Joins with UNICEF to Roll Out Mother-Baby Packs

Oct 29, 2010, 10:44 ET from Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

Innovative Approach To Deliver Lifesaving HIV Medicine Being Implemented in Four Countries

KISUMU, Kenya, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is pleased to partner with UNICEF and other organizations in the roll-out of the Mother-Baby Pack (MBP), an innovative solution to help bring lifesaving HIV-prevention medications to mothers and babies.  Created to tackle logistical challenges in delivering critical medicines to pregnant mothers and their newborn babies, the MBP is given to mothers during their first prenatal visit, and contains the anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and prophylactic antibiotics needed to prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby.  

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According to the 2010 report on universal access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment released last month by WHO, UNAIDS, and UNICEF, the global health community is reaching more than half of pregnant women (53%) in need of services to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to baby. However, nearly 1,200 babies are still newly infected with HIV every day, emphasizing the need to reach more mothers and children.

"While recent estimates show great progress in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the only way we will eliminate pediatric AIDS around the world is to develop innovative and creative ways to get these medicines to every pregnant woman living with HIV," said Charles Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, in Kisumu for the UNICEF launch of the MBP in Kenya.

The Mother-Baby Pack concept was first conceived by two nurses in Lesotho in 2007, during a review of Lesotho's prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) guidelines.  The review highlighted the fact that many pregnant women were unable to come back to clinics for subsequent check-ups, as well as for deliveries of their children.

Not only were the mountainous villages often very far from health centers, but winter conditions, lack of transportation services, and poor roads often made it impossible to travel.  In addition, some women experienced preterm labor and delivered their babies before completion of their PMTCT regimen.  Consequently, the Foundation's technical team, working with the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, developed a "Minimum Package," which contained the necessary medicines and pictorial instructions.

Similar challenges are faced in Kenya, where most women who need medicines to prevent transmission of HIV to their children do not deliver in health facilities. In Kenya, the Foundation developed an effort similar to the MBP, in partnership with the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Family Health International (FHI), and others to refine a simple low-tech package that would allow mothers to take drugs home for use at the onset of labor and have the medicines needed for their babies after birth.  A sealable foil pouch holds a syringe filled with the proper dose of drugs for an infant, with easy instructions on the back of the package.

"The Mother-Baby Pack is not intended to replace the important care, treatment, and support a woman gets during pregnancy from trained health professionals," added Lyons.  "It is meant to provide an option for women who may otherwise not be able to regularly access the medicines needed to prevent transmission of HIV to her child."

The Mother-Baby Pack is being rolled out in four countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Lesotho, and Zambia.  The Foundation is supporting the global implementation of the Mother-Baby Pack by developing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation, and with targeted assessments of its acceptability, feasibility, and the effects on women and on health systems.

About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS, working in 17 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment; to further advance innovative research; and to execute strategic and targeted global advocacy activities to bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.

SOURCE Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation