AAD’s General Director Jean-Michel Champault flew to the Democratic Republic of Congo on February 10, spending the subsequent 12 days in meetings with partners and collaborators on the ground. A meeting was organized with SOS-Sida coordinator Gratien Chibungiri, the personnel of the AAD-financed free and voluntary testing clinic of the village of Kamanyola, Doctor Nicole Mbayo and the HIV-positive mothers who have been taken under SOS-Sida’s care.
Over the course of these meetings, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV emerged as one of SOS-Sida’s leading priorities in its fight against the infection and disease. To accomplish this, the organization has already launched a range of actions.
SOS-Sida carries out information sessions on a daily basis with women of childbearing age. Already, information sessions have been regularly organized at the free and voluntary testing centers in the cities of Bukavu and Kamanyola. In addition, SOS-Sida workers are planning to reach out to the villages in the province of Sud-Kivu, in particular targeting the female population in an effort to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.
The focus on information highlights its core role in the battle against the deadly disease. If pregnant HIV-positive women who are less than 14 weeks along are able to follow SOS-Sida’s recommended treatment, the possibility of HIV transmission from mother to child is reduced to a mere 5%.
Furthermore, SOS-Sida has put in place the program GRANDIR, which seeks to maintain a follow-up with the babies of HIV-positive mothers until they have reached 18 months. Once this age, doctors can conduct the only pediatric test currently available in the country that detects the presence of antibodies in blood plasma, which ultimately provides insight into HIV infection. If the child turns out to be HIV-positive, then SOS-Sida assumes all medical, nutritional and psychosocial care of him or her.
The major restriction to SOS-Sida’s efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS is, unsurprisingly, the lack of means. Inspired by the actions of its partner, AAD is stepping up to the plate and organizing two prevention campaigns in Sud-Kivu. AAD is also shouldering the running costs of SOS-Sida’s free and voluntary testing centers in Bukavu and Kamanyola for the next two years.