Objectives: Assessment of the efficacy of a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme in a routine service setting in comparison to a research environment.
Design: Descriptive study over a 13-month period utilising retrospective data obtained from hospital records complemented by prospective data on a sample of patients enrolled in a study to determine an affordable HIV diagnostic protocol for infants.
Setting: Routine PMTCT service at Coronation Women and Children's Hospital (CWCH) situated in Johannesburg and affiliated to the University of the Witwatersrand.
Subjects: Pregnant women known to be HIV infected who delivered at CWCH from 1 October 2001 to 31 October 2002.
Outcome measures: The HIV transmission rate to infants, which reflects nevirapine (NVP) delivery and infant feeding practices, and follow-up rates of perinatally exposed children.
Results: Of the 8,221 deliveries, 1,234 (15%) occurred in women known to be HIV infected. HIV transmission rates of 8.7% at 6 weeks and 8.9% at 3 months of age in the study population verifies the high rate of NVP administration and the ability of women to formula-feed their babies and abstain from breast-feeding. More than one-third of infants never return for follow-up and more than 70% are lost to follow-up by 4 months of age.
Conclusions: The low HIV transmission rate confirms the efficacy of this routine service PMTCT programme. HIV-infected children are not being identified for medical management as part of PMTCT follow-up. It is imperative that record keeping is improved to facilitate ongoing monitoring.