Managua. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) in the implementation of the Action Plan to accelerate Nicaragua’s certification as a country free from mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. This involves putting into practice the recommendations resulting from a joint mission of international experts on June 12-17, 2017.
“The review by a mission of international experts indicates the commitment of the government of Nicaragua,” said Ivan Yerovi, the UNICEF Representative in Nicaragua. “I reiterate UNICEF’s firm commitment to continue closely accompanying the country to achieve the goal of elimination and ensure its sustainability.”
The National Elimination Norms and their respective Plan of Action have been produced with help from UNICEF’s technical and financial contribution for this year and they are being implemented locally in 46 municipalities. These municipalities are the most difficult to access geographically and have the most vulnerable populations, particularly with regard to pregnant women and their children.
The Plan includes updating the national database and the databases corresponding to all the country’s 19 SILAISs, which allows each pregnant woman with HIV to be locally monitored following identification and cared for during the perinatal period and childbirth. It also allows follow up to be provided to their babies in accordance with the established norms.
“We’ve helped with the purchase of filter paper tests (proviral DNA) that will facilitate taking samples from children born to mothers with HIV in the most remote communities, thus guaranteeing universal access with equity and quality,” stated UNICEF Health Officer Dr. María Delia Espinoza.
The joint mission’s recommendations
“Generally speaking, it was found that the health personnel had taken ownership of and were committed to implementing the strategy for the elimination of perinatal HIV infection in order to achieve the goals,” stressed Freddy Pérez of the Pan American Health Organization in Washington. “There is a community network structured and consolidated to support the health strategy; advances have been made in the management of the information system and data analysis; there is a human rights-based health care model; and there is linkage of the effective community work to address pregnant women and children with HIV.”
MINSA has been receiving accompaniment from UNICEF in the response to HIV and AIDS for 10 years. At the beginning care was only provided to people with HIV in the hospitals of Managua, Leon and Chinandega. However, five years later MINSA already had 36 health units providing treatment in a decentralized way, including to the Caribbean Coast regions, allowing counselling and testing for pregnant women to increase from less than 30% to 80% in 2012 and over 90% in 2016. This implied working with community leaders, religious leaders, faith-based organizations and social communicators in order to keep the issue of HIV prevention on the country’s agenda.
Experts from the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Latin American Center for Perinatology, Women and Reproductive Health participated in the mission, along with personnel from the MINSA HIV Programme and representatives from civil society organizations that work on the response to HIV.