Editorial: Zero HIV infection among newborns is within reach

THE fight against HIV/AIDS has registered significant milestones. The latest figures from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) show that the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate reduced from 1.83 per cent in 2013/2014 to 1.51 per cent in 2016/17. This follows new measures introduced to avert new HIV infections under a five-year (2013-2018) government strategic plan. The objective of the $1 million strategy is to reduce new infections in children from 1,000 to 200 by June 2018.

Indeed, the new development is a big boost towards efforts to achieve zero HIV infections among new-born children. To keep within meeting this target, the current momentum must be maintained.

However, it is not yet time to celebrate because 1.51 per cent infection rate among newborns is still a big hurdle to overcome, if new infections are to be wiped out.

Therefore, all key stakeholders must put in more efforts, especially by intensifying the monitoring of HIV positive mothers with new-born babies, and awareness campaigns on the risk of mother to child HIV transmission should be rolled out across the country.

This should be coupled with regular free HIV testing services for all women and their male partners coming for antenatal care consultation. Availing free HIV treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women should also be scaled up at the grassroots level to strengthen these efforts.

All indicators show that Rwanda is on track in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A 2017 UNAIDS overview on HIV/AIDS status shows that the number of HIV infections among children through mother-to-child transmission in Rwanda reduced by 61 per cent among children aged 0 to 14 years between 2010 and 2016.

Also, in 2016, prevention of mother-to-child transmission services coverage was above 80 per cent in Rwanda.

If these achievements are consolidated, soon no child born in Rwanda will be at risk of HIV infection at birth.