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A new hope

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-04 07:22

A new hope

AIDS orphans, who contracted HIV from their mothers, are happy with their new home founded by Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Association in Anhui province.[Photo by Liu Junxi / Xinhua]

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Medical programs are helping HIV-infected women give birth to healthy babies. Liu Zhihua investigates the challenges facing these new mothers and their families.

Holding her 1-year-old daughter in her arms, 20-year-old Xiao Mei is all smiles. The baby girl is the only child free from HIV/AIDS in her family of four in Zhumadian, Henan province, thanks to a government-subsidized program that provides pregnant women with free treatment to block mother-to-child transmission. "I cannot express in words how happy I feel now," Xiao says. "I always wanted a baby, but was extremely worried that I would give HIV to the child."

Xiao was infected from a blood transfusion as a young child. Her husband, also 20, was born with HIV, and his father died from AIDS.

They enrolled in a local mother-to-child transmission block program when they decided to have a child. Two HIV tests on the baby have both been negative.

Numerous families have benefited from such a program.

China is estimated to have 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, among which the ratio of women jumped from 15.3 percent in 1998 to 28.6 percent in 2012, and most of them were of reproductive age, according to Guo Ruixiang, a China Program Officer with UN Women.

Since Chinese health authorities issued guidelines to prevent mother-to-child transmission in 2001, many national and provincial programs that provide free intervention have been initiated.

"In 2012, only 7.1 percent of newborns born to HIV-positive women were confirmed to get HIV from their mothers, and roughly 4,500 children avoided getting HIV infection since 2001," says Wang Fang, an HIV/AIDS control specialist with the National Center for Women and Children's Health.

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