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Pregnant women abandoning ART after delivery

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The Ministry of Health has said 20 to 22 percent of pregnant women, who are put on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) after being diagnosed with HIV during the first antenatal tests, abandon treatment after delivering their babies.

The Ministry’s deputy spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe disclosed this in an interview on Tuesday, saying this puts the lives of the women and the babies at risk.

“This is unacceptable since chances are that even if the baby was born HIV-free, transmission from the mother to child is higher than when the woman is not on ART medication,” he said, urging such women to get back to the hospital to resume treatment.

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Chikumbe said without treatment, the likelihood of HIV passing from mother to child is 15-45 percent.

Reacting to the news, health activists have since described the development as a set-back in the fight against HIV and Aids.

Malawi Healthy Equity Network (Mhen) Executive Director Martha Kwataine said is the development is retrogressive.

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“The challenge is the [misconception] that people living with HIV and Aids, especially women, have. There is a myth that ART drugs have negative side effects which build up in the body and delivery of the baby flushes that out. We need to civic-educate women living with HIV and Aids on the dangers of such practices,” she said.

Health and Rights Education Programme Executive Director Maziko Matemba said: “This is a very sad and dangerous thing to hear that women are abandoning ART treatment after delivery before getting clinical advice from medical personnel. The situation differs from patient to patient and if not handled well can lead to the health of the mother deteriorating. Only a qualified clinician can decide the condition after further tests on the mother.”

He urged the Ministry of Health and clinicians to sensitise expectant mothers on the need to always seek professional medical advice other than making their own conclusions as regards Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).

In March, the Ministry of Health said 75,000 (15 percent) of the 500,000 people on ART are defaulting treatment and most of them are doing so after getting assurance from their pastors that they had been healed.

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