On April 12, 2019, the First Lady of Angola, Ana Dias Lourenço, observed prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services at Luanda’s Hospital Dos Cajueiros as part of her tour in support of the “Born Free to Shine” campaign.
Funding and strategic direction for this health facility’s important work comes from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with technical support from ICAP.
Health care workers welcomed the First Lady and members of her delegation at the HIV and testing services departments, where hospital director Armando João, MD, explained the process for PMTCT-related testing and counseling, as well as initiation on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for both pediatric and adult HIV cases. He also explained how hospital workers follow up with the mothers of HIV-exposed infants to support them in adhering to ART to prevent transmission, and encourage them to bring their babies for the recommended routine visits to check their HIV status and initiate them on ART if needed.
“All the pregnant women that we see in the hospital for prenatal consultation are tested, and all those who test positive receive full attention in the hospital during pregnancy, during birth, and after giving birth,” said Dr. João.
During her visit, the First Lady and her delegation—which included the provincial health director, the wives of some of the provincial governors, and health workers from other facilities—toured the hospital departments involved in PMTCT to see in action the patient flow for pregnant women who are living with HIV.
“Today we have seen how prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV works and how the services have been put in place, and we are quite satisfied with what we have seen in the Hospital Dos Cajueiros,” the First Lady remarked.
Click to view video coverage of the First Lady’s visit (YouTube: TPA Online)
ICAP’s current work in Angola began in 2015, though the country was also part of ICAP’s MTCT-Plus Expansion activities in 2008. Currently, ICAP’s activities focus on strengthening HIV care and treatment services, as well as improving strategic and laboratory information systems to track progress against the HIV epidemic and inform evidence-based program and policy decisions.
The First Lady launched the “Born Free to Shine” campaign in December 2018 with the goal of reducing Angola’s mother-to-child HIV transmission rate from 26 percent to 14 percent by 2021. This campaign is in line with the strategies of Angola’s National Institute for the Fight Against AIDS (INLS), which had presented the country’s 2019-2021 operational plan for PMTCT the day prior to her visit, at an event held at the António Agostinho Neto Memorial.
“There is still much work to be done,” the First Lady said. “It’s necessary to increase the availability of [PMTCT and HIV] services in the communities on the outskirts of the city to prevent overcrowding in the hospitals. But in the end, we can say that most of what we have seen has been positive.”
A global health leader since 2003, ICAP was founded at Columbia University with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners—ministries of health, large multilaterals, health care providers, and patients—ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all. To date, ICAP has addressed major public health challenges and the needs of local health systems through 6,000 sites across more than 30 countries. For more information about ICAP, visit: icap.columbia.edu