Daniel is six months old, and one of the more than a million children in Africa born of HIV-positive mothers every year. Without prenatal treatment, up to 30% of these children will contract the virus. Daniel is one of the luckier ones, so far. His mother, Elise, found out she was HIV-positive eight months ago, while she was pregnant with him. She took the necessary antiretrovirals to decrease the risk of transmission. But Elise lives in rural Cameroon, and since she was diagnosed has travelled two hours by car every month to the closest clinic to get the drugs necessary to prevent transmission to her child. The travel is expensive, but she wants her son to be negative, and she wants to be healthy. The type of drugs she takes require consistent usage; if they’re taken intermittently, she can develop resistance, which requires moving on to different (and more limited) treatment options.
When she showed up at the clinic last month, there weren’t any drugs in stock. When she took Daniel in to be tested, she was told she would have to wait a month to find out whether her baby had HIV.
We’ve heard the statistics. A baby born in a developing country is 13 times more likely to die before she reaches the age of five than a baby born in an industrialised country. A woman dies every minute from pregnancy-related causes. Three-quarters of all women with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa shoulders 25% of the world’s disease burden, but represents only about 10% of its population and has 1% of its health workers. Ninety per cent of babies born with HIV are born in sub-Saharan Africa.
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