First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire Helps Launch Point-of-Care Early Infant Diagnosis Project in Port Bouet
On Wednesday, May 30, 2017, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) organized a launch event for the Unitaid Point-of-Care/Early Infant Diagnosis (POC/EID) project for the optimisation of early infant diagnosis in the presence of the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, a special ambassador for UNAIDS; the First Lady endorsed the ceremony. The project was launched in collaboration with UNAIDS who assisted in coordinating the event, along with the office of the First Lady.
The ceremony took place at the General Hopital of Port Bouet in Abidjan and was well attended by the Ministry of Health, foreign dignitaries, representativies from the United Nations agency, religious leaders, local government officials, and civil society organizations.
The launch event was held at the hospital because of the extensive support it receives from EGPAF. Six health providers at the hospital have received training for the POC/EID process ; they have been implementing early diagnosis with the designated Alere Q machine since March 2017.
The ceremony started with greetings followed by a traditional offering (pouring of a small cup of liquor to the ground to honor the memory of the ancestors) by traditional chiefs. This short libation was followed by a welcoming speech by the representative for the mayor, Mrs. Ballet Elizabeth, who commended the First Lady for her leadership role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and also noted the important role mothers of Côte d’Ivoire have in keeping their families healthy.
Dr. Essombo Joseph, EGPAF-CDI Country Director, expressed EGPAF’s gratitude to the First Lady for her committment to end AIDS, which is also reiterated by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire. Dr. Essombo saluted the presence of the foreign government support and specifically called out the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) which contributes significantly to controlling the AIDS epidemic in the country. The Country Director reiterated EGPAF’s committment to serve Côte d’Ivoire through innovative approaches and models of care such as the Unitaid/EGPAF project, in order to boost the country’s efforts to achieving epidemic control by 2030.
An AIDS-free generation in CDI is possible through control of the epidemic and through the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The introduction of the early diagnosis at point-of-care project is a decisive step in ensuring treatment for children who test positive for HIV and thus reaching an AIDS-free generation.
Ms. Mariame Ngom, a social worker employeed with EGPAF Foundation shared her experience with the POC EID AlereQ machine. She received training to perform the EID POC test and understands the stress of mothers waiting for their infant’s test results.. Ngom noted that the equipment has changed the way in which she works and her relationship with the mothers who benefit from prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, saying, "There is mutual trust and the mothers confide in me."
Mr. Andrew Haviland, representing the U.S. Ambassador, expressed the gratitude of the US government to the government of Cote d’Ivoire through the personal efforts of the First Lady. Mr Haviland reflected on PEPFAR’s contribution to the PMTCT programs in Côte d’Ivoire: since 2004 more than 60% of pregnant women in the country have been tested for HIV and the program has helped to over treatment to more than 75% of HIV-positive pregnant women every year.
He noted that early diagnosis of HIV is an essential part of the PMTCT program that aims to reduce the impact of HIV on children born to HIV-positive mothers. He also noted that some considerable efforts have been made through PEPFAR in collaboration with the PNLS (National Program for the Fight Against HIV) and other partners such as EGPAF.
Mr. Haviland spoke on the new mother/child health card (created with support from the CDC and PEPFAR) should strenghten the follow-up of the mother/child pair with a specific focus on HIV-exposed infants. He also congratulated EGPAF for its works and its continued work to find innovative strategies to eliminate pediatric AIDS.
Dr. Quenum Brigitte, UNAIDS Country Director saluted the First Lady for her advocacy efforts as UNAIDS special Ambassador. Dr. Quenum also thanked the First Lady and through her the Government of Côte d’Ivoire for their committment to increase the national budget for the fight against HIV by 400%. She encouraged all actors in the fight against HIV/AIDS to work together and scale-up such initiatives as the POC EID in order to reach the 90-90-90 targets to end AIDS by 2030.
The Minister of Health of Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Raymonde Goudou Coffie who applauded the First Lady for her committment towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
According to the Minister, the challenges that remain for PMTCT specifically are: keeping HIV-positive pregnant women on treatement, access to early testing for high-risk children, and early treatment for children who have tested positive. The Minister urged the regional and district health directors and health providers to take ownership of the new technology and called for an increased sensitising of the population around POC EID. She reminded the audience that in 2016, the government of Côte d’Ivoire increased the budget allocated to health from 4 billion CFA to 21 billion --- an opportunity to work for a generation without AIDS.
The First Lady of CDI, Dominique Folloroux-Ouattara, expressed her gratitude to EGPAF for this innovative and promising project for the country.
First Lady also extended her gratitute to Alere who offered five POC EID machines to her personal organization - Foundation Children of Africa. The First Lady thanked PEPFAR and the U.S. government which offered, through EGPAF, 150,000 mother/child health cards to facilitate identification of HIV-exposed children and follow-up care for the mother child pair.
In closing, Mrs. Ouattara encouraged all partners, health providers, andlocal NGOs to continue their efforts so that no child is born with HIV.