In a key strategy to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV virus, the Centre has written to nine states including West Bengal to strengthen universal screening of pregnant women.
The Union Health Ministry in its directives has asked the states to conduct the screening of women in the early stage of their pregnancy to ensure that the virus is not transmitted to the newborns. According to the central government guidelines, the universal screening is a mandate for the early detection of HIV in pregnant women. The Union ministry had earlier asked various states to conduct screening on pregnant women in early stage through the programme, Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT), which was launched in 2002.
The Centre has observed that in various states, particularly in remote areas, the programme was conducted in the right time. If there was a delay in screening of the pregnant women, the risk of such virus being transmitted to the children is higher.
According to doctors, the screening should be done when these women visit to hospitals in the early stages of their pregnancy. If a woman was found to have been carrying HIV virus in the early stage, the doctors could prevent the virus from transmission.
The other states that received the Center’s letter are Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. In order to ensure universal screening and improving the access to PPTCT programme, especially in those states where the uptake of the programme is low, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) has taken an initiative to roll out the PPTCT services in 218 districts of nine states. The Global Plan has selected PLAN India as the agency for rolling out this intervention in all states.
PLAN India will operationalise this project in various states with the support of NGOs, who will work in close coordination with the states in district and block level. The key areas where PLAN India will require support from the state governments’ are the accessing data regarding online listing of pregnant women through Health Management Information System (HMIS) and Mother and Child Tracking (MCTS), both at districts and sub-divisional level. It was also aimed to build the capacities of ANMs and ASHA through district resource teams for universal screening of pregnant women for HIV and uptake of PPTCT services.
PLAN India would be providing support and technical guidance to their sub-recipient partner, Child in Need Institute (CINI) whose outreach workers would be working in the community with two objectives like building skills of peripheral health workers ANM and ASHA in PPTC and to conduct outreach and follow up of HIV positive women and HIV exposed infants. Presently, PLAN India with its field partner CINI has been working in various district of the state including Kolkata, Birbhum, Bankura, Paschim Medinipore, Cooch Behar, Malda, North 24-Parganas and South 24-Parganas.
The state health department has already asked the principals of medical colleges in the city and Chief Medical Officers of Health in the districts to extend all helps to the representatives of the PLAN India and CINI for the smooth implementation of the programme.