The Western Cape Health Department has implemented a programme in 6 of its health districts, which reduces mother to child transmission of HIV. The programme offers pregnant women voluntary HIV testing and counseling, anti-retroviral drugs and infant formula for 6 months. The programme is funded by the Provincial Health Department and is managed and implemented in collaboration with local authorities and NGO's specializing in lay counseling.
Innovation: This programme was the first of its kind in Africa and with further roll-out during 2001; the Western Cape has become the only area on the continent where up-scaling of the programme has progressed to such high levels of coverage. With the expansion of the programme, 23 000 women will be reached during 2001. According to infant test results 9.2% of infants born to HIV positive mothers taking part in the programme become infected. This is a significant reduction in the transmission rate which would have been 33% without intervention.
Poverty Impact: The service is provided free of charge and has been implemented in the poorest areas of Cape Town. The project significantly reduces the household expenditure on medical care. Some experts estimate that a household with 1 HIV positive child can spend as much as 50% of their total income on medical care for that child.
Sustainability: The pilot phase of the programme is now complete and the programme has now been included as a permanent feature of the regular health service available at all sites.
Replication: The programme has already been replicated in 6 other health districts and further roll-out is underway. It is estimated that 90% coverage will be reached by June 2002.