By TONY PALME
SIXTY-three HIV-negative babies born to HIV-positive parents were discharged from the Mt Hagen Provincial Hospital yesterday.
Their parents were with them to receive certificates of HIV-negative after two years monitoring under the prevention of parent to child transmission (PPTCT) programme coordinated by the Western Highlands health authority and Chai – the Clinton Foundation.
HIV services coordinator Petrus Kombea said the programme ensured the children to be HIV-free.
“We have discharged about 234 HIV-negative babies from HIV-positive pregnant mothers since we started the programme in 2011,” Kombea said.
“We pass the babies every two years. This year was the biggest (63), but next year we expect the numbers to increase to more than 100.
“At the moment, we have over 200 babies still under our care. We will continue with the programme.”
Most of the HIV-positive parents testified and thanked God and the medical staff (nurses and doctors) for doing a difficult job in ensuring their babies did not have the dreaded disease.
Kombea and the staff thanked the parents for having the courage to come forward and to comply with every medical advice given to them.
He explained that cases of HIV were detected when pregnant mothers came for antenatal care. “When the babies are still inside the womb, we put the mothers on drugs (anti-retroviral-ART),” he said.
“After the baby is born, he/she is fed with breast milk alone, no food. Then after six months, the baby is fed with food and stops breast-feeding completely.
“The ART drug is very effective because it prevents the HIV from being transmitted from the mother to the baby if she is faithful in taking the drugs as instructed by doctors during pregnancy and the first six months of breastfeeding.”
Kombea said the PPTCT programme gave confidence to mothers and reduced discrimination against HIV-positive parents.
“Parents no longer fear or are ashamed because they know HIV does not kill anybody,” he said.
“This shows that they love their babies. We are here to save babies. The babies are innocent.”
The HIV-positive parents were urged to remain faithful to their partners.
By TONY PALME