Siaya County became the first county in Kenya to launch a county-specific business plan for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (EMTCT) of HIV and Syphilis 2017 – 2021. The five-year plan seeks to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV to below five per cent, as per the national and international targets, as the county strives towards a bold target of validation of EMTCT. This jovial, colourful and well-attended launch event was held at St Juliana School in Siaya on July 27, 2017.
Speaking during the event, the Chief Guest, County First Lady Rosella Rasanga congratulated all those involved in the creation and publication of the business plan. “Siaya County has what it takes to make this business plan a reality. I look forward to the end of the successful implementation of this business plan, which will hopefully enable us to join the likes of Cuba, Thailand and Belarus as a county in receiving validation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis,” she said.
The launch of the business plan was witnessed by county officials from various departments, national government partners, developmental partners and members of the Siaya community. Also in attendance were about 100 mothers and their infants who had successfully completed 18 months of PMTCT programs in various clinics across the county.
Patricia Adhiambo, a mentor mother from Siaya County Referral Hospital recounted how she managed her pregnancy through the support of health care workers from the facility. She eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy who tested negative after 18 months of the PMTCT program. “I thank God for the simpler treatment regimens present today that make it easier for mothers and their infants to adhere to medication resulting in the HIV negative status of their babies,” she said.
Challenges facing EMTCT work in Siaya County
In a speech read on her behalf by Harriet Kongin UNAIDS Policy and Strategy Advisor, the Head of UNAIDS in Kenya, Ms Jantine Jacobi said, “EMTCT is an important pillar in the fast-track approach towards ending AIDS. We have witnessed Kenya’s MTCT rate drop from a high of 18% in 2012 to the current 8%, and we commend this progress. The next important step is not just lowering the target to less than five per cent, but rather its ultimate elimination. To accelerate progress towards EMTCT, we ought to ensure that quality services are offered to all women living with HIV; that there are increased and dedicated resources at the county level towards EMTCT, and that the county owns and leads the transmission elimination process.”
Dr Lennah Nyabiage from CDC also noted some gaps in programming which need to be strengthened as Siaya journeys towards the WHO Framework for EMTCT. She encouraged the county to accelerate the identification of all women living with HIV, ensuring that pregnant HIV positive clients attend ante-natal clinics from the early stages of pregnancy where they also receive health education messages.
CHS Support towards EMTCT in Siaya County
Since October 2016, CHS has been supporting PMTCT programs across 119 health facilities in Siaya County through PEPFAR funding.
“As the CHS family and other development partners represented here, we congratulate the county government for this great milestone. We reaffirm our commitment in working with the Siaya County Health Management Team to make this business plan a reality,” said Dr Julius Oliech, CHS SHINDA Deputy Program Director.