More than 6 000 pregnant mothers between the ages of 15 and 34 tested positive for HIV this year alone, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
According to a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and paediatric HIV care and treatment coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Precious Andifasi, a total of 6 333 pregnant women were diagnosed with HIV, during antenatal care visits, and causing a risk of infection to the unborn babies.
Dr Andifasi called on society to address gender inequalities which places women and young girls at a higher risk of HIV infection.
“Women often lack freedom of choice, while they may be aware of what to do to protect themselves, they are unable to take precautions because of powerlessness, economic dependence on their partners and fear of violence,” she said.
She added that, “They may also feel that it is simply their duty to please their man, even to the detriment of their own well-being,”
Dr Andifasi said, reversing rising HIV infection rates in women will require addressing fundamental issues concerning how men and women relate to one another, as well as improving male involvement in antenatal care.
“Women who become infected during pregnancy and breastfeeding have a higher risk of transmitting HIV to their babies compared to women who are infected with HIV before becoming pregnant,” she said.
She challenged the media to encourage the nation to test for HIV and promote male engagement in antenatal care.
“The media has a critical role to play in disseminating accurate information as the country fights to reduce HIV and syphilis infections in mothers.
“As a Ministry, we are scaling up prevention strategies for women testing HIV negative, including provision of Pre-exposure prophylaxis for those at high risk of Seroconversion,” she said.
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