The adapted CSC will serve as a platform where the voices of HIV-positive women will be heard in the planning, monitoring, and quality improvement of PMTCT programs. Ultimately, this intervention aims to improve key PMTCT outcomes, including adherence and retention in treatment and early infant diagnosis of HIV, while increasing dialogue between consumers of PMTCT services, providers delivering services, and government officials providing oversight of health services.
Malawi is among the countries most affected by the HIV epidemic globally – nearly 1 million people there are currently living with HIV. Adolescent girls and women are particularly hard-hit by the epidemic; women aged 15-24 are eight times more likely to be infected with the virus than their male counterparts. This is a challenge because, in addition to transmission through sexual contact, HIV can be transmitted vertically from mother to child. In fact, more than 50,000 pregnant women are in need of HIV treatment – almost 10% of Malawi’s population. With such a high incidence of HIV among women of reproductive age, Malawi has taken a radical and lifesaving step of providing antiretroviral therapy to
HIV-positive pregnant women from the time of diagnosis through the remainder of their lives, testing infants born to HIV-exposed mothers, and starting them on treatment if infected to dramatically increase their chances of survival. Despite this commitment, ensuring that women are retained in care from the point of diagnosis has been a challenge. In 2015, just 39% of all HIV-positive pregnant women remained on treatment after the first 12 months, and only 33% were virally suppressed. This lack of effective adherence to treatment puts the mother’s health, the health of her infant, and the health of her partner at risk.