Benin clinic battles mother-to-child transmission

Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Blandine Mekpo, a midwife at a maternity ward, provides information about AIDS to pregnant women in Bohicon, southern Benin (AFP/File)

Pregnant with her fourth child in a clinic in Benin, Rosine is relieved to learn that she does not have AIDS, after a free test considered a national health priority.



"I was afraid the test would be positive. My husband is a driver, you know," the woman in her 40s told AFP at the maternity clinic in the small town of Bohicon, where she was screened.



For 15 years, authorities in Benin have sought to tackle mother-to-child transmission of HIV with free care, from the initial tests to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs if a patient proves seropositive.



A programme that covers 87 percent of the public and private maternity clinics in the small west African country has been a success, cutting the rate of mother-to-child transmission almost by half between 2012 and 2016, from 14 percent of cases to 7.6 percent.



"This is completely integrated into maternal care, it's routine," said Blandine Mekpo, who has been a midwife for 11 years. "All the women who come in for a prenatal consultation agree to the test."



Elise cradles her little son in her arms. Fifteen months ago, the young mother learned that she was infected with HIV. The clinic at once provided her with a free box of ARV drugs, which worked. Her child of six months does not have the virus.



"This is a great joy," Elise says. "The treatment saved me, they saved my son and my husband. He is the only one to know. I live a normal life, like all women and all mothers."



Medical staff will nonetheless continue to monitor Elise's son until he is 18 months old.