VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention is being hosted in Vancouver this weekend.
Among the topics of discussion will be the work Canadian non-governmental organizations are doing in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Richard Bedell advises Dignitas International, one of those NGOs, which is researching a new method of stopping mother-to-child transmission being offered to 40,000 pregnant women in Malawi.
“There have been a few big problems with trying to address mother-to-child transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa that have been persistently difficult to deal with for years,” says Dr. Bedell. “They involve simply getting people identified — identifying those pregnant women and new mothers who need to be on treatment, and secondly working out an intervention that’s acceptable to pregnant women which is effective in preventing transmission of the virus to the infant.”
Dignitas International is supporting the Malawi government’s efforts to offer this program, as well as studying how effective it is.
“All women who were infected were offered immediate antiretroviral therapy,” says Bedell. “Not just a regimen that would prevent transmission to the infant, but also a regimen that would constitute treatment for the mother as well. They were asked to initiate that treatment and stay on it for life. The idea was that they would need treatment to control their own HIV disease, and given most of them would have more than one child in Malawi, they would already be prepared for the subsequent pregnancies because they would be virologically suppressed.”
Just this week, the United Nations announced it has reached its goal of signing up 15 million people infected with HIV for antiretroviral therapy by this year.