Purpose of review
To review new evidence in prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV-1, which establishes, in principle, the feasibility of greatly improved effectiveness in developing countries.
This review presents evidence that demonstrates that a large gap in prevention of mother-to-child-transmission [MTCT] is being increasingly bridged. Recent studies have addressed issues on postnatal transmission of HIV-1 through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding transmission affects the majority of HIV-infected pregnant women and children in the world and who live in Africa and are often poor. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies in all women living in high HIV prevalence regions will probably reduce the risk of HIV-positive pregnancies. These studies demonstrate the success of the following three types of interventions:
primary prevention of HIV-1 in women;
prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs in breastfeeding infants;
prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs for lactating mothers.
It is also clear that key barriers to implementing these findings in developing countries are weak and ineffectual health systems. Therefore, identifying needs for improving health service delivery are critical; an example of the synergy between prevention and treatment through integrated services is given.
Recent data on primary prevention of HIV-1 in women of child-bearing age, and use of antiretrovirals in breastfeeding infants and lactating mothers, report successful interventions for the prevention of breastfeeding transmission of HIV-1. Health infrastructure improvement in developing countries is central to the application of research findings to implementation of MTCT programmes.