A programme on HIV/AIDS prevention in HCM City. (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) – Ho Chi Minh City’s Paediatrics Hospital No1’s neurology and infectious diseases department has admitted children with HIV whose mothers did not have HIV tests during their pregnancy.

Dr Truong Huu Khanh, the department’s head, said that the mothers were not provided counselling about HIV tests during pregnancy. Many of them were examined periodically at private health facilities, he said.

“If they know their HIV status, they are prescribed medicines during pregnancy and childbirth, which can prevent more than 98 percent of mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” he added.

The programme for prevention of mother-to-child transmission has been carried out since 2005, said Nguyen Duc Vinh, head of the Ministry of Health’s maternal and child health department.

Vinh spoke at a conference on a national action plan on eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis by 2030, held in HCM City on March 27.

The rate of women receiving HIV screening before and during pregnancy is 38.5 percent, while the rate of pregnant women receiving HIV tests during labour is 57.6 percent.

The country has nearly 2 million pregnant women every year, and of those, more than 3,800 have HIV. Between 1,140 and 1,520 children are born from women infected with HIV.

Health staff’s counselling on HIV tests and other issues related to HIV for pregnant women is limited, according to Vinh. In addition, health insurance does not cover the fee for HIV tests, and there are not enough free HIV tests to serve demand.

Many pregnant women are afraid of discrimination if they test positive for HIV, Vinh said.

The rate of pregnant women infected with hepatitis B accounts for 10 percent to 20 percent of all pregnant women. Ninety percent of children born from these women will be infected with hepatitis B.

The Ministry of Health has plans to improve health care at grassroots-level health facilities with better communication and broader access to preventive services related to HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis.

The rate of mother-to-child syphilis transmission is 40 percent to 70 percent, while the rate of pregnant women getting syphilis tests accounts for only around 16 percent.  

Tests for the three diseases will be included in pregnancy examinations at grassroots-level health facilities. This will help the country eliminate mother-to-child HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis transmission by 2030.-VNS/VNA