Celebrating the Promise and Potential of HIV-exposed Infants
“In September 2010 [I was] happily pregnant with my second born…The nurse at the antenatal clinic offered to test me for HIV and I obliged…HIV was never meant for people like me — or so I thought. Within 15 minutes my world view and status had changed, as I was declared HIV positive.” These are the words of Mary, who recounts her struggles and inspiring story of being a pregnant woman who was HIV-positive and yet committed to ensuring that her child would remain HIV-negative. Mary shared her story during a graduation ceremony for Makueni County Referral Hospital’s HIV-exposed infants in front of an audience that included officials from Makueni County and the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec.
In 2017, the Makueni County Referral Hospital celebrated achieving virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Since 2011, the program has served 290 HIV-exposed infants and only 5 have tested HIV-positive — a rate of 1.7% — at 18-months. On this day, Ambassador Godec congratulated the women stating, “The American people continue to stand alongside Kenya as we strive towards maximizing resources in order to reach more lives, save more babies, and experience an HIV-free generation…Today we celebrate you and your children’s promise towards a healthier future.”
For more than a decade, PEFPARExternal, through the CDC, has been working in partnership with the Makueni County government to strengthen health systems. CDC Kenya has provided more than $10.5 million to Makueni County, and in partnership with the Centre for Health Solutions, supports more than 70 health facilities and 172 health care workers.
In Makueni County, more than 22,000 adults and approximately 3,400 children (under age of 15) are living with HIV. CDC Kenya supports treatment for nearly 15,000 patients, including 1,600 children. Since October 2015, transmission of HIV from infected mothers to infants has been at 0%. The facility is on course to virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission — one of the ultimate goals in HIV prevention.
As other CDC-supported programs, similar to those in Makueni County, work towards achieving elimination of mother-to-child transmission, it becomes increasingly evident that Mary’s lasting words are well within reach and that through the “…heroines with us here and their beautiful children graduating today…together we can!”