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Malawi Sets Example for Gains in Fight Against HIV

March 2, 2016

With a population of about 17 million people, a health workforce with just short of 400 physicians and about 5,600 nurses, where fewer than half of the 1,000 health facilities had soap and running water, Malawi by 2011 had only one viable course against its HIV epidemic -- the fastest and most direct way possible. Economically the poorest country in Africa, it would have to use scant resources to maximum effect, and strive for immediate results.

That meant that Option B+, the World Health Organization-recommended approach to preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission was the only option for Malawi, Dr. Andreas Jahn of the country's Ministry of Health told an audience in Boston last week. Allowing access to antiretroviral treatment for life for all pregnant women with HIV, the option eliminated the "diagnostic hurdle" of testing to determine immune cell, or CD4 counts, when limited access to that testing had been shown to have hobbled the country's efforts to prevent mother to child HIV transmission, Jahn said. In addition the approach, if done right, would avert future infections, during breastfeeding, during subsequent pregnancies and to women's uninfected partners. In fact, Jahn said, the approach has served as a stepping stone to the UNAIDS 90-90-90 testing, treatment and viral suppression goals set for 2020 if the global pandemic is to cease to be a public health threat by 2030.

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of Science Speaks. Read the full article.

This article was provided by Science Speaks. It is a part of the publication The 23rd Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Visit Science Speaks' website to find out more about their activities and publications.

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