SEATTLE, WA – Findings from household surveys across three African countries presented here Tuesday showed large numbers of HIV-infected women remaining undiagnosed while breastfeeding their infants despite some level of participation in antenatal and HIV testing services.
Médecins Sans Frontières physician David Maman presented the findings, from Kenya, Malawi and South Africa.
The household surveys, conducted between September 2012 and November 2013 included interviews and testing of 11,550 women across the sites and found significant proportions numbers of pregnant and breastfeeding women: 37.8 percent of the women in Kenya, 33.8 percent in Malawi and 12.5 percent in South Africa. Among them, HIV prevalence ranged from 13.4 percent in Malawi to 22.2 percent in Kenya and 23 percent in South Africa. Of the breastfeeding women with high viral loads, 58.6 percent were not diagnosed at the time of the survey. Using HIV testing history and viral load testing, the investigators determined that 103 women were infected during pregnancy or breastfeeding with the highest numbers coming from Kenya which was implementing Option A — antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery — for HIV transmission prevention at the time of the survey.
The investigators recommend repeat HIV testing throughout the breastfeeding period and the adoption of Option B + — lifelong antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women. Maman also called for aggressive scale-up of treatment as prevention and PrEP among young women.