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Feb 2, 2005

New equipment fights mother-child HIV

Story PictureThe war against AIDS is being fought on many fronts and today those on the battle line in Belize came one step closer to preventing transmission of HIV from mother to child. Three private companies have pooled their resources to come up with over forty thousand dollars that will allow the Central Medical Laboratory to acquire equipment and supplies for in-country testing for the early detection of HIV in babies born to HIV positive mothers. According to director of the National AIDS Program, Dr. Paul Edwards, the arrival of these machines will mark a significant step forward for Belize.

Dr. Paul Edwards, Director, National AIDS Program
?What we?ve done in the past, we were able to take samples and send them to Honduras. We had some limitations. Sometimes samples would not get there. Sometimes the samples would be inadequate. We would have to go back and look for that mother and that child. Stick the child again and send the sample. That project with Honduras also ended last year. So we need to look at a new mechanism how we can get that child tested as early possible so we can provide the best of care.?

Dorla Mckenzie, Coordinator, Mother Child Transmission Program

?Well this equipment will be able to give young babies the test much earlier. You know we need special equipment for young babies to tell if they are positive early in life, at six weeks, at three months. Without this equipment the baby will have to wait until they are one year and six months when they will get another type of test to tell if they are HIV positive. But with this equipment at six weeks we can know if the baby is positive or not.?

Patrick Jones
?And of course the benefit to that is that treatment can start earlier.?

Dorla Mckenzie
?Yes, that is true. You know that not all babies have to be born positive once the mother is positive. But some of them will be positive and these babies get sick quite early in life. Not like an adult, they get sick quite quickly and so we need to identify this along with other measures that the mother have to take so that we can try to help these babies as early as possible.?

Paul Edwards
?If they are found to be HIV positive then the Government provides a medication forty-eight hours before that child is born. Medication is also provided to that child within forty-eight hours to seventy-two hours after that child is born. And the Government of this country provides artificial milk for nine months of that child?s life because we also know that the virus is also in the breast milk.?

Shell Belize, First Caribbean International Bank and PAHO contributed a total of more than forty thousand dollars to the Central Medical Lab. According to Edwards, the programme for the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child started in 2001, with technical support from the Bahamas. The machines should be installed at the Central Medical Lab within the next six months and technicians hope to begin full testing by the end of the year. According to the project proposal presented to the funding agencies, sixty infants are born to HIV positive mothers each year in Belize.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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