Health
 Mali
Project #5753

Born Free of HIV in West Africa

by GAIA Vaccine Foundation
Sleepy babies don
Sleepy babies don't like pictures

It has been a tumultuous year in Mali, in fact, a series of tumultuous years since the 2012 coup d'etat. The national security situation is affecting the work of many international NGOs, but it’s with great relief and pride that we can assure you that our Mother to Child Transmission Prevention program (MTCTP) established in 2005 is still thriving. In fact, we now have a full 10 years of successful data to share with you and the global health community. 15,459 pregnant women have been tested for HIV over the past 10 years, that’s 99% of all the women seen for prenatal care in Sikoro, on the outskirts of Bamako. 268 women tested positive for HIV, and they were enrolled in the MTCTP program, so that their babies could be born HIV free. In fact, anyone who tests positive for HIV is enrolled in a long-term treatment program with a dedicated specialist and pharmacist. Ours was the first clinic to start “decentralizing” HIV care, and last December, the Minister of Health in Bamako visited to learn more about how this model is increasing access to care and prevention among the most resource-poor neighborhoods.

We are especially proud of the HIV testing acceptance rate at our clinic. Compared to other MTCTP clinics in Mali where only 31% of women accept testing, our 99% acceptance rate is an incredible statistic made possible through the work of our dedicated staff of midwives and doctors who ensure that women understand what will be best for them and their infants. 

Of course, the best part of all this is how proud our HIV+ mothers are of their HIV free children. It’s amazing to see these healthy kids grow up each time we’re back in Mali for a visit. Moms love to have their pictures taken, and sometimes they are more enthusiastic about it than their babies who have just woken up from a nap!

In 2016, we plan to turn our focus to expanding this successful program to the other community-run clinics nearby where MTCTP is not running smoothly. After all our years of experience, GAIA’s medical staff is eager to share the incredible advances made possible through donations to this program with their community members. We are actively seeking funding through multiple partnerships to expand MTCTP; we hope you will join us in ensuring this life-saving program continues to benefit even more expecting mothers in Bamako.

 We are so grateful for all the years of your support!

Twins!
Twins!
10 years of prevention
10 years of prevention
At GAIA
At GAIA's clinic more women accept HIV testing

I'm writing to you from the European HIV/AIDS Conference where GAIA is presenting our research on Mother to Child Transmission Prevention (MTCTP). Now that we have celebrated 10 years of HIV prevention at the Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro, Mali, we have a decade of data to share with the scientific community and you, our loyal supporters!

 GAIA’s “Chez Rosalie” MTCPT program showed a consistently higher HIV test acceptance rates (over 93%) than reported for the rest of Mali (31% in 2011, UNAIDS/UNGASS Report). That means, pregnant mothers trust us and want to learn their status so they can protect their newborn from HIV.

The trend of reduction of HIV in Sikoro accelerated following introduction of MTCTP, as compared to other prenatal clinics in Bamako. Early introduction of MTCTP program may have lowered the HIV prevalence in Sikoro. 

The number of women and babies requiring MTCTP has decreased with time. Significant reductions in odds of transmission were seen when ARV treatment was provided during pregnancy or to infants immediately after birth. 100% of babies born to MTCTP-adherent mothers were HIV-seronegative.

The United Nations comprehensive approach to MTCTP lists the following components:

  1. Primary prevention of HIV among women of child bearing age
  2. Preventing unintended pregnancy among women living with HIV
  3. Preventing HIV transmission from a woman living with HIV to her infant
  4. Providing appropriate treatment, care and support to women living with HIV and their children and families

At GAIA’s Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro, we developed programs over the years that closely align with the UN priorities:

  • MTCTP began in 2005
  • Peer Education about HIV began in 2006
  • Comprehensive HIV care was established in 2008
  • Nutritional and Peer Support began in 2008
  • Teen Peer Education began in 2012

Our decade of HIV prevention in Sikoro shows that MTCTP interventions are feasible in low-resource settings, and in fact, are most successful when patients have access to local care.  Replication of GAIA’s programs at more community-run clinics in West Africa could significantly reduce the prevalence of HIV among children.

While HIV prevalence in Mali is relatively low at 1.4%, there are 68 000 women over the age of 15 estimated to be HIV infected in 2014. The estimated number of AIDS orphans in Mali is 59 000. (UNAIDS 2014) 

2016 will be the “Year of MTCTP” in Mali, and we aim to join in the national campaign to expand our programs and increase access to care 5-fold.  Currently we test approximately 1,500 pregnant women per year. By expanding to four more clinics, we could test and treat a total of 7,500 women per year.

Please join us to make 2016 the year of ZERO Mother to Child HIV Transmission! We can’t do it without you!

HIV rates have dropped faster at GAIA
HIV rates have dropped faster at GAIA's clinic
Happy mom and HIV-free babe
Happy mom and HIV-free babe
Kids at the clinic
Kids at the clinic

This June we celebrated 10 years of Mother To Child Transmission Prevention (MTCTP) at the Sikoro clinic in Bamako. Of course we had to have a party with the whole community including speeches, masked dancers, drumming, a theatre troupe, and a big, shared meal. Everyone is proud of the progress made by all towards a healthier safer community. It's amazing to think that some of those first HIV-free babies born at the clinic will be teenagers soon!

We also began the preliminary conversations with public health officials about expanding our program to other clinics in the region of Commune 1 (a district of Bamako). At other clinics, MTCTP has not been successful, and there's a lot to do to make sure that proper preventions measures take place. The first steps are to meet with staff at the clinics and determine what is preventing proper MTCTP from taking place. The next step will be staff trainings and community outreach.

The end goal will be to ensure that 100% of women who come in for pre-natal visits are offered free HIV testing and counseling. It's also important that 100% of women who test positive give birth at the clinic so that they have a safe, clean environment to reduce risk for the baby.

The government HIV prevention networks in Mali are making 2016 the year of MTCTP, and the goal is to eliminate this form of transmission entirely. GAIA has proven that we know how to eliminate vertical transmission, and we have 10 years of experience! 

Please join us as we start to grow this program so that we can have a greater effect preventing children in Mali from being born with HIV! Your help has always been crucial to us at GAIA!

Many thanks for your years of support!

Kids at the clinic
Kids at the clinic
Girl at the clinic
Girl at the clinic
Kids at the clinic
Kids at the clinic
Twins are a sign of good luck!
Twins are a sign of good luck!

Mali is ranked as the last country (86 of 86) of all examined in the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), following Sudan, DRC, Yemen, and Somalia. The SIGI measures gender inequality by looking at discriminatory social institutions, such as violence against women, restricted access to public space, and restricted access to land and credit. Additionally, widowed women in Mali are the most vulnerable in relation to food insecurity.

 This disheartening statistic on inequality is even more serious in the case of HIV+ women who constitute a sector of the population that is even more vulnerable. 32% of our patients are widowed and have six children on average. Although GAIA supports a portion of their medical costs, they possess few resources to support their children, and in the worst cases, they have been rejected by their extended families due to stigma surrounding their HIV status. Stigma remains a huge problem in Mali; due to grave social repercussions following a seropositive diagnosis, many are reluctant to get tested or pursue treatment. While social groups for women throughout the neighborhood exist, the HIV+ women are often excluded from these activities. As a result of extreme poverty, it is far likelier that the child of an HIV+ parent will drop out of school to get married (in the case of a girl) or work to support the family (in the case of a boy).

Through GAIA’s MTCTP (mother to child transmission prevention) program, we have ensured that the children of our patients are HIV free. Now, we need to safeguard their fragile futures by helping their mothers create a better life for the whole family. In the words of Koumba, a member of the group, “I don’t have means but with the little bit of resources that I find I feed my children. My five children don’t have the disease so I do everything I can so that they stay healthy”. When HIV+ patients were interviewed, they specifically requested a microfinance project. In the words of Ramata, “The most important thing that I want is to sell merchandise so I can earn money to feed my children”.

As a result of GAIA’s 10-year effort to create unifying programs, the HIV+ patients at our clinic have formed an association that has recently gained legal standing. Their goal is to promote knowledge and awareness about HIV/AIDS in Mali and to reduce stigma for those living with HIV/AIDS. 

We are eager to support them for this great cause. We want to help the HIV+ mothers expand their association to include more members and more activities. 

With your help, we can work towards stability and food security for HIV patients and their families. Please join us in supporting this fledgling association.

I wanted to take a moment to share our current statistics with you. This year, GAIA is celebrating ten years of HIV prevention in Mali. Ten years ago, we opened "Chez Rosalie", our mother to child transmission prevention program at the Hope Center Clinic, and since then, 12,639 expecting mothers have walked through the doors.

As our program continues and grows each year, we thank you, our supporters, for your continued efforts to ensure that babies born at Chez Rosalie have a chance at a life that is 100% HIV free.

As we begin the new year of 2015, we continue to rely on your support as we expand and bring new expecting mothers into our program. Construction begins next month on four additional consultation rooms for the clinic, and we now employ nine midwives. 

With your help, we can make 2015 an exceptional year!

We wish you heartfelt thanks from all of the GAIA team.

Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro
Hope Center Clinic in Sikoro

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Organization Information

GAIA Vaccine Foundation

Location: Providence, RI - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.gaiavaccine.org
Project Leader:
Anne De Groot
Founder and Scientific Director
Providence, ri United States
$3,040 raised of $12,000 goal
 
61 donations
$8,960 to go
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