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.


Girls United Against Violence and AIDS

May 11, 2009

There is a direct relationship between HIV/AIDS and violence affecting all social strata, be it through sexual exploitation or abuse – that many times have roots at home. “It is crucial to teach the girls how to defend themselves and to denounce the violence they are victim of,” says one of the participants of the workshop Girls United Against Violence and AIDS that reaches the counties of Recife and Cabo. The campaign, beyond the workshop, has a blog that is used by them to post their views on cases of violence reported by the media, or just to show their views on ways to comfort victims of peculiarly violent situations for being a girl.

The campaign, launched in 2007, has a pioneer approach when interfacing violence and AIDS. The actions include monitoring the system of the Children and Adolescent Rights Act – ECA –, the care structure for youth victim of violence, while reinforcing the need for preventing violence and the HIV/AIDS with youth victim of abuse and sexual exploitation through a sequence of “dialogue roundtables” on the issue at public schools.

Even though there are positive response, the Campaign identifies many challenges such as the lack of unified database system that would ease the monitoring of violent cases, that are badly monitored for the sheer lack of basic information entry. The health care professional resist to write down the cases in detail. And the worst case scenario, the lack or limited prophylaxis medication for HIV in cases of rape.

“Confronting the AIDS Feminization” plan is still ONLY A PLAN

May 11, 2009

Since March, representatives of different social strata of Pernambuco have come together to discuss the Integrated Plan to Confront the Feminization of AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Disease, result of a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Special Secretary of Policies for Women of the State. The meetings have happened at Gestos.

The plan, that has as a fundamental element the confrontation against the multiple vulnerabilities that contribute for the Brazilian women to become susceptible to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, was launched in 2007 March. It has had much publicity in international events, but until today it has not been realized. In 2007 there were macro-region evaluation about the proposal, but the final version of the plan, with the contributions of those consultations, has not been made available either by the Ministry of Health or the State Special Secretary of Policies for Women, whose web site still has the old version of the plan.

In Pernambuco, the Secretary of Health, through the State Coordination of STD/AIDS, was responsible to present the proposal for the State Plan until 2007 December – deadline that has been long gone – and up until today, nothing.

For the organized civil society it is clear that the lack of publicity of the Plan among the social organizations and the lack of articulation between health and women policy managers, even though the plan was confirmed in the last National Conference for Public Policies for Women, 2007 August, has contributed to the demise of the plan’s realization.

Among the organizations that follow the debate are the Health Municipal Council of Recife and of the state of Pernambuco, Women Municipal Council of Recife, Race Equity Council, RNP+, Articulation Pernambuco AIDS, Women’s Forum of Pernambuco, Women Federation of Pernambuco, Young Feminists Colective, Sex Workers Association of Pernambuco and the Family and Gender Nucleus of the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE).