blood test tubePreventing mother-infant transmission of HIV is an important focus of third-world countries like Zambia. In Zambia, mother-infant transmission accounts for nearly 500,000 new HIV cases per year, according to 2009 statistics. With proper antiretroviral medication use, transmission rates can be lowered to near 0. Researchers in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Zambia recently completed a study published in the journal AIDS that focused on the effectiveness of combination antiretroviral protocols at preventing transmission.

Nine health clinics in Zambia participated in the study. In all, 284 women participated in the program. All women were less than 28 weeks pregnant when treatment began. Five control sites were also used to evaluate current standards of care. Women in the active group received universal combination antiretroviral treatment until they stopped breastfeeding. Women in the control group received peripartum nevirapine and antenatal zidovudine, but treatment was not continued throughout breastfeeding.

Conclusion: Women in the active group transmitted HIV to one out of 104 infants, 1%. The control group reported a higher mother-infant transmission rate at 12%, or 14 out of 116 participants. Maternal HIV treatment with combination antiretroviral medications is more effective at preventing mother-infant transmission than antenatal and peripartum medications.

Source: Gartland MG, Chintu NT, Li MS, Lembalemba MK, Mulenga SN, Bweupe M, Musonda P, Stringer EM, Stringer JS, Chi BH. Field effectiveness of combination antiretroviral prophylaxis for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in rural Zambia. AIDS. 2013 Jan 15.