HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Family Health Division (FHD) and the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) plan to work in tandem. Together, they will provide family planning services at the centres providing antiretroviral therapy (ART), voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services and prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), as per a decision of the Family Planning and HIV Integration Advisory Board, which was formed two weeks ago under the deputy director-general of the Department of Health Services.
Dr Sinendra Raj Upreti, director of FHD at the Ministry of Health, said the first advisory board meeting held yesterday finalised the terms of reference for programme integration. He said the government is not only providing services of PMTCT, ART and VTC services to women living with HIV, but is also encouraging them to use family planning methods and reduce infections.
The programme will help women living with HIV to practice safer sex and avoid pregnancies. Upreti said the programme will teach women living with HIV, who want to be mothers, safer practices to reduce HIV transmission to children.
Mother-to-child transmission is the most common and important source of HIV infection in children. The transmission risk is greatest during delivery, but can also occur during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. He said the programme, targeted mainly at women of reproductive age (15-49) seeking PMTCT, ART and VCT services, will provide timely treatment to children born with HIV.
The move is in keeping with the government pledge to the UN to make PMTCT services accessible to 80 per cent of women accessing antenatal care by 2015, a Millennium Development Goal (MDG). The present coverage of PMTCT is 13 per cent. The contraceptive prevalence rate is 43.2, which is 44 in 2006. The unmet need of family planning is 27 per cent at present, while it was 24 per cent in 2006. NCASC started PMTCT services in the country from February, 2005 and there are 22 PMTCT of HIV sites, of which 20 sites offer paediatric ART. Currently, three districts — Achham, Sunsari and Kailali — are implementing the community-based PMTCT programme. The government is providing antiretroviral drugs and testing for the babies for free.