The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health & Child Care (MOHCC) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), today commemorated the conclusion of a 5-year, $45 million project to accelerate the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Zimbabwe. In 2010, when the project began, Zimbabwe had one of the highest burdens of new HIV infections in the world, with a mother-to-child HIV transmission rate of approximately 30 percent. Today, the rate of transmission has been reduced to 6.7 percent and is continuing to fall, putting Zimbabwe on track to be one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
“What Zimbabwe has accomplished in the past five years is an inspiration to the world,” said Charles Lyons, EGPAF president and CEO. “We can build upon the incredible momentum we’ve generated through our partnership with CIFF and MOHCC to drive forward toward a future where no child has AIDS.”
The project drastically scaled up access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services by taking a district-based approach. This strategy ensured sustainability and local ownership of Zimbabwe’s national PMTCT program. Today, PMTCT services are available in maternal, newborn, and child health clinics (MNCH) across the country’s 62 districts. Thanks to this scale-up, MOHCC has reached nearly 2 million pregnant women with antenatal care and enrolled more than 280,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers living with HIV and more than 234,000 HIV-exposed infants into the national PMTCT program.
The project established an electronic database in 36 strategic sites to improve follow-up and retention for mothers and their babies enrolled in the national PMTCT program. Turn-around-time for diagnosing HIV among infants has been reduced from 16 to 10 weeks thanks to the introduction of a courier system to support transportation of dry blood samples and strengthening the capacity of laboratories. The project also procured 154 point-of-care CD4 machines to provide same-day CD4 test results, which are important for understanding the early progression and impact of HIV on patients.