Mothers in West Pokot County are on the forefront tackling HIV in a bid to curb mother to child transmission. A total of 515 born babies have tested negative and only 16 positive this year from HIV positive mothers in the County according to the report from the Ministry of Health.
The County has more than 6000 people living with HIV, with a HIV prevalence rate of 1.6 %. This was revealed during a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Health and Ampath Plus meant to celebrate the successes of Elimination of Mother To Child Transmission (EMTCT) in Kapenguria where 50 children who were born HIV negative from HIV positive mothers graduated.
West Pokot County First lady Dr. Mary Lonyangapuo said that stigma and discrimination are the challenges in fighting HIV in the County as the infected people are perceived as a bad omen in the society. She called on residents to be the champions in the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic.
Dr. Lonyangapuo called on residents in the area to be tested and know their status. “People should accept their status. Many people can’t come out despite being HIV Positive. It’s is better for one to come out so that they can get help,” she said.
She called on the County and national governments to involve HIV positive people in programs to help them improve their lives.
County Health CEC Mr. Geoffrey Lipale said that they have put in place measures to make sure the HIV prevalence rate is reduced. “The County is improving from 1.8 last year to 1.6,” he said.
He cited stigma as the biggest challenges in the fight against the deadly disease. “Many people are staying in denial, ”he said
He cited that migration of pastoralists to the neighboring country Uganda with their animals in search of water and pasture has been challenge in treatment of HIV patients. “Many move and forget to take ARVs .We have made an agreement with our neighboring country Uganda and health workers to follow them to give them treatment,” he said.
County health Promotion services Chief Officer Ms Edna Krop encouraged residents to embrace testing. She asked expectant mothers to keep on giving birth in hospitals.
Ampath Plus Deputy Chief Dr. Beatrice Ejakait said the programme integrates zero new infections and zero discrimination. “We are telling those who are positive that their status cannot prevent them from bearing healthy children but they must be subjected to strict follow-up. The mothers are encouraged to take up their medication religiously and ensure that deliveries are done under skilled care,” she said.
She said the graduation culminated from an entire process beginning with antenatal care visits to regular testing for the children to determine their HIV status.“We have partnered with the Ministry of Health to offer psychosocial support and offer a platform for mothers to share their experiences with the community; we started monitoring them after their antenatal care visits and getting enrolled into the program,” she said.
Dr. Ejakait said that the project involves aspects like advising mothers on nutrition, self-disclosure as well as advice on how to help ensure that the children are not infected despite their mothers’ living with HIV.
“The work is done through a network of caregivers and mother-to-mother support groups which resulted in positive indicators. Because of limited resources we welcome partners to help us achieve our goal towards elimination of HIV in this County and this is where Ampath steps in,” says Dr Ejakait.
West Pokot County Assembly Speaker Ms. Catherine Mukenyang called on area leaders to support people living with HIV/ Aids .