HEALTH and Child Welfare minister Henry Madzorera has called for friendly antenatal care centres to encourage men to get tested for HIV along with their spouses during and after pregnancy.
Report by Nduduzo Tshuma
Madzorera was speaking after a presentation by Mary Nyathi, a consultant paediatrician at Mpilo Central Hospital, at the ongoing Wonca Africa Region Conference in Victoria Falls. Nyathi had raised concern over dangers that men presented to their children by not being tested for the virus along with their spouses.
The minister said there was need to remove stigma barriers to encourage men to get tested.
“Antenatal care clinics should be friendly centres. We have spoken of child-friendly centres and that new men-friendly centres should be considered to minimise parent-to-child transmission of HIV,” he said.
In her presentation, Nyathi said there were recorded cases where women, who tested negative before childbirth, sometimes tested positive afterwards because of the window period and also because in most cases their partners would not have been tested. As a result, she said, infants would contract the virus from their mothers during breastfeeding.
“The problem has been with men who are refusing to be tested. Many men are saying that the antenatal care centres are not user-friendly. Some men fear the needle and we hope we get the latest machines which test saliva, like is done in some developed countries,” said Nyathi.
“Great strides have been made in combating child mortality due to HIV, but more effort is needed to convince men to go for tests.” Nyathi said another problem they faced was that mothers took a long time in bringing children living with HIV for care, resulting in death of infants.
She, however, said there had been an increase in the number of children placed on anti-retroviral treatment since 2007.