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From research to practice: use of short course zidovudine to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in the context of routine health care in Northern Thailand.

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  • 1Office of the Inspector General, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand.

Abstract

Thailand has made remarkable progress in battling the HIVepidemic, as the decreases in HIV prevalence and changes in sexual behavior attest. Yet, in Phayao, a northern province severely affected by HIV, approximately 280 HIV-infected women, or 5% of all pregnant women, gave birth to an estimated 70 infected children in 1997. As many of these infants die within their first year of life, the infant mortality rate is on the rise after years of decline. The province, however, responded quickly to this crisis. Since July 1997, the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) offers through Phayao's seven public hospitals a short regimen of zidovudine to all consenting HIV-infected women to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. The overall prophylactic coverage for the province reached 68% of all HIV-infected pregnant women in the fourth quarter of 1997, either through the MOPH program or through the North Thailand Perinatal HIV Prevention Trial, the parallel clinical trial conducted by the MOPH and the Ministry of University Affairs. Analysis of the data collected showed that compliance to the intervention was excellent, around 90%. This was achieved at an additional cost of US$ 0.13 per capita per year, affordable even in the context of the economic crisis, and represents less than 1% of public health expenditures in Thailand. The cost per Disability Adjusted Life Years saved is approximately US$35, making it highly cost-effective. In less than a year, the MOPH implemented this program on a large scale in this relatively poor province, with limited external support. Women receive pretest counseling at their first prenatal visit, are offered HIV testing and, if they accept, return for posttest counseling two weeks later. In the case of a positive test result, a confirmation test is performed at the provincial hospital. HIV-infected women are offered zidovudine the 34th week of pregnancy or as soon as possible thereafter. Before starting treatment, the women's hemoglobin, CBC and platelets are measured. Infants begin taking oral zidovudine shortly after birth and continue until they are one week old. Subsequently, health centers regularly follow the infants, and volunteers provide case management of childhood illness, nutrition problem solving, childhood immunizations and home visits. Mothers feed the infants breastmilk substitutes, and women with insufficient income receive the substitutes free of charge. The northern Thailand experience provides important insights into the feasibility of large scale interventions to prevent perinatal HIV, such as the need for the reorganization of the delivery of health care and quality counseling. On the basis of this experience, a simplified schedule of three intervention phases (Screen, Treat and Care), which can be incorporated into routine mother and child health care, is proposed. Follow-up of the child, however, will require more frequent and intensive contact with health care services than usual. At a time when many countries are reevaluating their health care systems, these insights should be considered, so as to additional better the needs of HIV-infected women during pregnancy and beyond.

Comment in

  • Opening the AIDS door. [Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 1998]
PMID:
10437936
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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