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S Afr Med J. 2009 Mar;99(3):174-9.

Assessing missed opportunities for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in an Eastern Cape local service area.

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  • 1Centre for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.



Prevention of new HIV infections is a critical imperative for South Africa; the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) is one of the most efficacious HIV prevention interventions.


Assessment of a PMTCT programme to determine missed opportunities.


The Kouga local service area (LSA), bordering Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (Port Elizabeth) in the Eastern Cape.


An assessment was conducted in 2007 before implementing technical support for strengthening the PMTCT programme, including: interviews with 20 PMTCT managers, 4 maternity staff and 27 other health workers on service provision, management, infrastructure, human resources and the health information system; 296 antenatal clinic users on their service perceptions; 70 HIV-positive women on HIV knowledge, infant feeding, coping, support and service perceptions; 8 representatives from community organisations and 101 traditional health practitioners (THPs). Observations were conducted during site visits to health facilities, and the District Health Information System (DHIS) data were reviewed.


Staff had high levels of awareness of HIV policies and most had received some relevant training. Nevirapine uptake varied by clinic, with an average of 56%. There were many missed opportunities for PMTCT, with 67% of pregnant women tested for HIV and only 43% of antenatal care attendees tested during a previous pregnancy. Only 6% of HIV-positive women reported support group participation.


Reducing missed opportunities for PMTCT requires strengthening of the formal health sector, intersectoral liaison, and greater community support. Priority areas that require strengthening in the formal health sector include HIV counselling and testing; family planning and nutrition counselling; infant follow-up; human resources; and monitoring and evaluation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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