Jessie Banda and her husband are the proud parents of two healthy, beautiful children, both of whom are living free from HIV thanks to the diligence of their parents and the care of the Zambia National Service (ZNS) Mtetezi camp clinic.
When Jessie first arrived at the clinic three years ago, she was pregnant with her first child. Staff at the clinic—which serves an area of 5,942 military personnel, their families and local residents—offered Jessie HIV counseling and testing, as they do with all their pregnant clients, and discussed the treatment approaches to protect her unborn child. As an HIV-positive woman, Jessie began a series of treatments to prevent transmission of HIV to the baby boy in her womb.
Since 2009, the Zambia Defense Forces’ ZNS Mtetezi facility has been providing HIV prevention, care and treatment programs with support from the U.S. Department of Defense through Jhpiego. The staff at the clinic and 10 community lay workers have all received on-site prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) training from Jhpiego.
At 28 weeks, Jessie began a short-course prophylaxis of zidovudine. She continued the medication until she was in labor. Then, she took a starting dose of nevirapine and began 12 hourly doses of Combivir, which she continued until one week after giving birth. For his treatment, the baby received nevirapine and zidovudine syrup for one week.
At six weeks, the baby received cotrimoxazole prophylaxis; a test for HIV was negative. An HIV test was repeated at 12 and 18 months. To the delight of Jessie, her husband and the health staff at Mtetezi, the toddler’s test remained negative.
Jessie returned to Mtetezi camp in August 2010 for prenatal care. Pregnant with her second child, she went through the same prevention and treatment regimen, and when her daughter was born, the baby was also HIV negative. “Now I believe that an HIV-positive mother can have HIV-free babies. I thank the clinic staff for their encouragement and support,” says Jessie.
Jessie’s children aren’t the only youngsters who have benefited from the clinic’s care and treatment. Since 2009, 64 out of 67 babies born to HIV-positive mothers at the facility have tested negative for HIV—demonstrating a more than 95% success rate in providing PMTCT services.
“We are very happy that we have so many HIV-negative babies born to HIV-positive mothers in our catchment population,” Lt. Brian Lukwesa, nurse-in-charge, says proudly. “We are encouraged to continue providing the services to the community knowing that our efforts are supporting an HIV-free generation.”