Eliminating Mother to Child Transmission of HIV in the Mbola Millennium Village

by |June 15, 2010

I recently returned from a trip to the Mbola Millennium Village cluster in Tanzania to evaluate the progress of the project’s HIV/AIDS services for pregnant women. Since its beginning in 2006, the Millennium Villages project (MVP) has improved access to general medical services in the cluster, including the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.

The Mbola village cluster consists of 6 neighboring villages in the Uyui district in mid-western Tanzania and has an estimated population of 34,000 within 6,780 households. The HIV prevalence in the cluster is around 4.5%-5.0%, which is below the national prevalence rate of 5.7%. Mother to Child Transmission accounts for 18% of infections.

medical-visit-a-mbola-dispensary

Medical visit at a Mbola dispensary. Source: Millennium Promise Blog

The MVP has recently signed a partnership with UNAIDS to reach virtual elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV in the MVP clusters. To obtain this ambitious yet attainable goal, the PMTCT program in Mbola has four main objectives:

(1) Primary prevention of HIV infection among women of childbearing age. Awareness campaigns on male involvement in the prevention of HIV/AIDS (using posters and hand outs) will be conducted to address issues of gender-based violence and intergenerational sex and to promote the effectiveness of condom use in HIV prevention and Family Planning (FP). The project also proposes to focus heavily on religious leaders’ involvement as well as traditional birth attendants.

(2) Preventing unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV. This is achieved through Family Planning sensitization, birth spacing and increased access to male condoms. The staff encourages the women to bring their husbands to increase male involvement and promote utilization of FP services.

A health facilitator interacts with patients at Illolangulu dispensary. Source: Millennium Promise Blog

A health facilitator interacts with patients at Ilolangulu dispensary. Source: Millennium Promise Blog

(3) Preventing perinatal HIV transmission from women living with HIV to their infants. The goal will be to develop a standardized minimum care package for both HIV positive mothers and their children, and to align all dispensaries in the cluster on PMTCT guidelines and on drug availability at each clinic.

(4) Providing appropriate treatment, care and support to mothers living with HIV and their children and families. The project will upgrade the current services available in the cluster by implementing Community-based Therapeutic Care at two major clinics in the cluster by training the staff and including the association of People Living with HIV/AIDS who will assist the clinic staff with counseling.

Overall, the PMTCT services in the MVP are currently well aligned with national guidelines and the quality of services provided is higher than other average health facilities of a similar level.

It is our hope that with the continued work of the MVP and through this exciting new collaboration with UNAIDS, HIV/AIDS services in the Mbola Millennium Village cluster will continue to be improved to reach our ultimate goal of virtual elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.

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Yanis Ben Amor is Director of the Tropical Laboratory Initiative and TB and HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the Millennium Villages Project at the Center for Global Health and Economic Development.

The Center for Global Health and Economic Development (CGHED) mobilizes health research and programs that enable low-resource countries to develop quality health systems for the poor, promote sustainable economic development and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – global targets for reducing extreme poverty and hunger and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability.  For more information about CGHED’s work, please visit  our website.

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