Giving Thanks: An HIV-Positive Mother in Zambia Gives Back

Introducing antiretrovirals (ARVs) into antenatal and postnatal care significantly improves the chance that babies of HIV-positive mothers can be born without the virus. “I am a happy mother,” says Susan Simfukwe in Lusaka, Zambia. “I think the American government has really helped us Zambians. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think we’d have ARVs now. I want to thank the American people as their support has really served us. ”

Rewind to 2004, when Susan was diagnosed with HIV and her dream of having another child vanished. At 27, she was already a mother of two girls, but she and her husband still hoped to expand their family. With the news of her positive status, Susan felt that having another child was no longer an option.

“It wasn’t easy to accept my status,” she says. “The experience was very traumatic, and I told myself not to have another child.” Susan, now 33, lives in the capital city, Lusaka; she is a community outreach coordinator for the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia. To read more about Susan’s story, please click here.

In 2008, Zambia had one of the highest rates of pregnant women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. About 15 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive; an estimated 80,000 women with the virus become pregnant every year. For these women without access to treatment and informed decisions about infant feeding, the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is significant. According to the World Health Organization, without treatment, up to 30 percent of babies born to HIV-positive women become infected during pregnancy and delivery, and an additional 5–20 percent may later become infected through breastfeeding.

Public health and international assistance organizations cannot successfully address HIV & AIDS unless the right products for prevention, care, and treatment are delivered in the right quantities, in the right condition, to the right place, at the right time, and for the right cost. A continuous supply of HIV & AIDS commodities at service delivery points is especially critical to the success of ARV treatment programs. Investments in strengthening supply chains for HIV & AIDS programs—especially for ARV drugs—will provide commodities in the immediate term, while building institutional capacity so that commodities can continue to be provided in the longer term, as program needs evolve.

In 2005, the Zambian Ministry of Health (MOH)—with support from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—made ARV drugs available for free, but getting the drugs to all the health facilities was an ongoing problem. In 2006, the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT helped the MOH improve the logistics system for ARVs, making drugs available to many HIV-positive pregnant women in both urban and rural settings who, previously, were not getting them.

Since 2007, the ARV logistics system has given more than 165,000 women like Susan access to PMTCT drugs in Zambia. With assistance from the USAID | DELIVER PROJECT, stockouts, especially at small PMTCT-only health facilities, were prevented, ensuring access to ARVs for more women in Zambia. By June 2010, almost 1,000 health facilities that provide PMTCT services had access to these life-saving drugs.

The  USAID | DELIVER PROJECT and its predecessor projects have worked for more than 15 years with country governments, NGOs, and the commercial sector to ensure the availability of HIV & AIDS commodities and other essential medicines at service delivery points. Our particular strength is providing technical assistance and training in implementing the right combination of logistics practices to help a program achieve its objectives. The project complements the efforts of many other organizations engaged in the fight against HIV & AIDS.

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