Mother-to-child HIV transmission tackled
More than 2,000 babies are born with HIV every day around the world, catching the virus from their mothers.
But Zhao Yunli (an assumed name), an infected mother from a small county in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, tells a different story.
She safely delivered a healthy baby after receiving treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission at the Kunming AIDS Treatment Centre in the capital city of Southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Zhao is just one of the 30 infected mothers who successfully gave birth to healthy babies at the centre since 2000.
So far, all the babies of the 30 infected mothers have been fine, said Wang Zhongping, president of the centre, adding that the eldest child is more than three years old.
He said that since the HIV incubation period is as long as eight to 15 years, his centre will continue to monitor the children - who live at high risk of infection - for a long term.
Wang said mother-to-child transmission accounts for between 0.9 per cent and 1.2 per cent of all the HIV infection cases in China, with the ratio continuing to grow.
Zhang Wei, a doctor at the centre, said only three to four infected mothers came to her centre before 2003 and received treatment annually. But her centre has already treated 10 pregnant AIDS patients in the first nine months of this year.
Doctors say HIV can be transmitted to an infant during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding. The risk of transmission varies between 15 per cent and 30 per cent among infants who are not breast-fed.
Mother-to-child transmission is one of the three channels through which HIV can be transmitted. The other two are blood and sexual contact.
Wang, president of the centre, said there are two kinds of methods to reduce mother-to-child transmission.
One is to take antiviral therapy from the early days of pregnancy. The other is to take this therapy one or two days prior to delivery.
Wang said his centre uses the latter method in order to reduce the side effects of antiviral agents.
After delivery, doctors at the centre will conduct HIV tests on the children every year, said Wang.
Located near the "Golden Triangle," which is notorious for its drug production and trafficking, Yunnan is seriously affected by AIDS. It reported a total of 14,905 HIV cases by the end of last year, ranking it first in China.
Zhang said that from a doctor's viewpoint, HIV-infected women had better not get pregnant in order to avoid mother-to-child transmission.
However, many of the women insist on giving birth. In view of this, receiving special treatment is a must and education on how to prevent babies from acquiring HIV is an urgent task, said Zhang.
Luo Guangxian, a nurse at the centre, said most of the patients there come from poverty-stricken rural areas, so they are only charged 5,000 yuan (US$600), half of the total medical expenses.