HIV and Maternity in Pernambuco

May 11, 2009

The housewifre P.J.S, thirty-five years old, born in Recife, northeastern state of Pernambuco, could not imagine that the happiness attached to having a baby could become a judicial nightmare.

When fnding out she was pregnant of her second child, in 2003, she took all medical pre-natal care. She did all blood tests, including the HIV reagent. The doctor at Maternity Barros Lima, northern area of the city, assured her she had nothing to worry about.

The child had a normal birth delivery. Two months later, to a complete surprise, the tests came back with the news that both her and the baby were HIV positive.

Ms Kariana Guerios, attorney of Gestos, who is following the case, says this is one of four similar cases in the Juridical Counseling department of the institution. She points to the fact that prevention of mother to child transmission is still failing in the health system and that this is somewhat frequent. “For the lack of appropriate assistance, my client was told to breast feed, what is completely inappropriate for HIV positive mothers for raising the risk of the baby getting infected. But fortunately such cases are becoming more rare,” explains Ms Guerios.

The attorney filed a case of moral damage and negligence against the County in the Civil Court, asking for a pension for the child because the mother has no financial condition for the treatment and care. “They are poor. It is necessary to try and repair a damage the municipal competence because this child, that could have been born healthy, was infected with HIV because of a sloppy pre-natal.”

Data from the report of monitoring the goals of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS – UNGASS-AIDS – in sexual and reproductive health, prepared by the UNGASS-AIDS Forum Brasil, in 2008, shows that, despite the government’s efforts, reducing “vertical transmission” or PMTCT has a wide regional fluctuation in both care and eduction.

Based on the Plan for Preventing Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and Sifilis of the Ministry of Health, 2007, there is a 0,41% prevalence of HIV infections in mothers. There is an estimate of 12,456 newborns are exposed to HIV yearly. The transmission rate of HIV from mother to child, when the treatment intervention with prophylaxis is not done, reaches about 25% of newborns of HIV+ mothers, but it can lower to one or two percent with the application of the necessary measures during pre-natal care, delivery and post-delivery procedures. Such interventions are: the use of anti-retroviral medicines starting at the fourteenth week of gestation; use of injected AZT during labor; perform cesarian section when advisable; give oral AZT to the newborn exposed to HIV from birth to forty-two days and do not breast feed, use mild substitute instead.

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