Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS

Between the birthing process and breastfeeding, it is thought that as many as 25-35% of HIV infected women will pass HIV to their babies.1 Considering that there are at least 10 million HIV infected women in Africa, this is a crippling statistic and should be seen as entirely unacceptable in this day and age.2 In North America, the CDC estimates that there are over one million Americans living with HIV with one in five of those people unaware that they are infected and carriers.3 Assuming that half of this population of one million are women, and many of these are of child bearing age, Mother-to-Child transmission (MTCT) is very much a global health issue, not just a Developing Country one.

Dealing with HIV MTCT is a complicated process involving a multi-factored approach. First and foremost is the need for the HIV infected mother to remain healthy and well nourished to ensure the placenta remains capable of protecting the foetus from infection. It is also very important that the mother is free from any other infections during term such as bladder infections and sexually transmitted disease (STI’s). Clearly access to proper nutrition, clean water and adequate health care is critical but never a certainty in Developing Countries or even our own.

Infected mothers are routinely encouraged to take antiretroviral drugs in the hope that the progression and spread of HIV will be reduced. This however becomes a significant issue in the Developing Countries since the effectiveness of these antiretroviral drugs is routinely compromised due to the lack of consistent availability of these drugs or lack of patient compliance. All HIV infected women should be given counselling and education but this is also often unavailable to, or unwanted by, patients either in the Developing or Developed Countries.

The biggest concern that I have, is that the growing number of HIV infected people globally will be seen as lack of progress and lack of solutions and this will cause us all to become desensitized to the enormity and gravity of the problem. With consistent and growing desensitization, prevention and treatment efforts …and fund raising will continue wane. We have only to look to our own North American experiences. Once our policy makers and the general population came to believe that AIDS/HIV was only a ‘gay’ issue, the sense of urgency dwindled along with the research funding and scientific efforts by the pharmaceutical companies.

More than two decades later, we are facing the realities of millions of Americans living with AIDS/HIV and the numbers are growing. The threat of ambivalence is our ubiquitous enemy against which we must all defend. With future generations at stake, there is never more the case for “a stitch in time” and a step up in our efforts to tackle the issue on behalf of the innocent newborns who do not deserve to enter life with such monumental disadvantages. Every effort should be made to keep the MTCT issue current. Every effort should be made on all viable options, including unpatentable options, and work-in-kind contributions should be valued as much as money. It is time for creativity and dedicated commitment and not just lip service. All alternative approaches, especially community sponsored ones, need to be explored because as we
all know, current efforts, while large in absolute monetary terms, are sadly underwhelming, underproductive and just not good enough.

Given this growing problem, I am personally motivated to develop Photodisinfection for the MTCT application. With the need for new solutions to this growing MTCT problem becoming more obvious by the day, we have undertaken to accelerate our development plans. Photodisinfection has been proven to be a viable and safe technology and is used successfully in a number of other applications including the disinfection of HIV from pooled blood plasma in Europe. IF HIV can be eliminated from plasma in Europe by this method of Photodisinfection, then isn’t it logical that we can greatly reduce the viral load in the vaginal cavity of HIV infected pregnant women with the same technology?

We believe that Photodisinfection, with its immediate and powerful antimicrobial benefits, will become an important new tool in the arsenal of therapies needed to control the rate of Mother-to-Child Transmission. Photodisinfection is portable, easy to use, inexpensive and does not involve toxic substances that may harm the newborn. The Vitalwave™ Photodisinfection system is currently under development and we hope to work with partners to get to clinical protocol testing in the field by early 2012. My personal ambition is to have products available by end of 2013. In the interim, I hope to work with charitable foundations to enable access and distribution to areas where this technology is needed most.

I look forward to keeping you abreast of our progress; the visibility will force me to find a way to make this happen.

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7 Responses to “Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS”

  1. So it sounds like that in our next generation most of the people will be HIV infected?

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