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Keywords:

  • PMTCT;
  • HIV/AIDS;
  • women;
  • nevirapine;
  • reproductive health;
  • maternal health;
  • ICPD

ABSTRACT

Half of the 33.2 million people living with HIV today are women. Yet, responses to the epidemic are not adequately meeting the needs of women. This article critically evaluates how prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs, the principal framework under which women's health is currently addressed in the global response to AIDS, have tended to focus on the prevention of HIV transmission from HIV-positive women to their infants. This paper concludes that more than ten years after their inception, PMTCT programs still do not successfully ensure the adequate treatment, care and support of HIV-infected women. Of particular concern is the continued widespread use of single-dose nevirapine despite World Health Organization recommendations to employ more effective combination therapies that do not potentially jeopardize women's future treatment outcomes. In response, the article calls for a more comprehensive approach that places women's health needs at the centre of AIDS responses. This is critical in settings where the pandemic is generalized and there is a push to greatly expand PMTCT programs, as a more effective and equitable way of meeting the needs of women in the context of HIV. Without such a comprehensive approach, women will continue to be impacted disproportionately by the pandemic, and current strategies for prevention, including PMTCT, and treatment will not be as effective and responsive as they need to be.