In the fight against HIV, Tanzania is making significant progress in achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2025. One of the key strategies for reducing the burden of HIV is the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) program. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding through the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tanzania, Amref Health Africa in Tanzania implements the Afya Kamilifu Project, which contributes to Tanzania’s efforts to eliminate AIDS by 2030.
The PMTCT program aims to decrease HIV infection rates by providing easily accessible antiretroviral Therapy (ART). This life-saving medication suppresses the virus from the HIV-positive mother and prevents transmission to the unborn baby. During FY2021-2023, the program, in collaboration with the Regional and Council Health Management Teams (R/CHMTs), reached 151,339 pregnant women in the Simiyu Region, of which 652 were diagnosed with HIV and linked to ART services.
Dr. Khamisi Kulemba, the Regional AIDS Coordinator for Simiyu, reported that “Simiyu Region has made remarkable strides in combatting HIV/AIDS, with a notable reduction in mother-to-child transmission. We remain committed to working with our partners to deliver high-quality PMTCT services and educate HIV-positive mothers so that every child is born without this virus.”
One such mother, Zawadi Molu, age 30, not her real name, narrates her experience, “I got pregnant in late 2021, and after two months of my pregnancy, I started PMTCT services. I was directed to give birth in a hospital. I complied with all the guidance and gave birth at Lagangabilili Hospital to a child without HIV. I stopped breastfeeding the child when he was one year old, and an HIV test was performed. I am glad that my baby is still HIV-negative. The PMTCT program gave me the knowledge and support to have a healthy pregnancy and protect my child from HIV. I am grateful that my baby is thriving.”
Another mother, Letu Pakali, not her real name, added, “Thanks to the PMTCT program, my son was born healthy, and I have hope for our future. I want him to grow up strong and follow his dreams.”
The PMTCT program has a strategy to test every pregnant woman who visits the clinic. The program encourages pregnant mothers to get tested for HIV along with their male partners, and all women who come to give birth are tested.
According to Dr. Edwin Kilimba, Project Director of Amref Health Africa in Tanzania, “Our success in achieving the target of PMTCT services is a result of the collaborative efforts between R/CHMT with support from the U.S. CDC. Through joint supportive supervision, mentorship, and training, we have capacitated healthcare workers to deliver high-quality PMTCT services at health facilities. This has significantly reduced new HIV infections in children and has contributed to keeping mothers healthy. Together, Amref Tanzania, with its partners, will continue to scale up PMTCT interventions to achieve the global goal of eliminating new HIV infections in children.”
Dr. George Mgomella, Associate Director of Programmes at CDC Tanzania stated,
“U. S CDC Tanzania is committed to supporting the Government of Tanzania in ending AIDS through the PMTCT program in Simiyu Region. We are proud to partner with Amref Tanzania and other implementing partners. We will continue to work together to improve access to quality healthcare services and reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS in the country.”
Since 2019, Amref Health Africa in Tanzania has implemented the U.S CDC-supported Afya Kamilifu Project (2019-2023) with funding from the U.S. Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In collaboration with local government authorities, including the Regional/Council Health Management Teams in Simiyu, the University of Maryland-Baltimore (UMB), and the Tanzania Communication and Development Centre (TCDC) are working to control the HIV epidemic in Simiyu Region.
The success of the PMTCT program in the Simiyu Region is a testament to the importance of providing accessible and quality healthcare services to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. Through CDC support, Amref and other partners are making strides in reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Tanzania and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Author: Julieth Mongi and Adrian Mgaya, Amref Health Africa in Tanzania