Dr. Siobahn Crowley of UNICEF South Africa and Minister for Health Aaron Motsoaledi talks to the media at the Crown Plaza Hotel ahead of the International Aids Conference. 190712. picture: Chris Collingridge 675

Theresa Taylor

IN THE past two years, 107 000 babies have been prevented from contracting HIV from their mothers during pregnancy or birth.

This is according to the SA Medical Research Council (MRC), who made the announcement yesterday, ahead of SA participating in the International Aids Conference next week.

MRC researcher Aneena Goga said that perinatal mother-to-child transmission of HIV had dropped from 3.5 percent to 2.7 percent between 2010 and 2011 and was a great reduction in comparison with an 8 percent rate of transmission in 2008.

The Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme began in 2001 with the testing of women for HIV early in their pregnancy and then putting those who were HIV positive on treatment.

Research shows that without antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, transmission rates can be as high as 30 percent.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said he was confident these results meant that they would meet the 2015 target of lowering perinatal transmission to less than 2 percent.

Other challenges pointed out include the need to make sure that mothers stayed on HIV treatment to prevent transmission through breast feeding and education and provision for adolescents.

Mark Heywood, of the SA National Aids Council, emphasised the importance of addressing new sets of challenges such as the need for education and the constant provision of ARVs.

“We can’t be getting people to test for HIV and then failing them when they can’t get ARVs because there is a (shortage),” he said.

UNAids released a global report ahead of next week’s conference which placed new infections in sub-Saharan Africa at 1.7 million for last year, with about 300 000 of these being children.

The report stated that currently 6.2 million people were on ARV therapy, compared with only 100 000 in 2003, and classified SA’s progress in terms of treatment as significant.

Motsoaledi backed this up, saying that 66 percent of HIV-positive people in the country were on treatment.