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Reported by April V. Taylor
The Huffington Post recently highlighted the story of Hubert and Jeanne Mwangaza. The couple are both HIV-positive but have managed to have three children who do not have the disease. Rather than this being evidence of a medical miracle, it is an illustration of how a father’s involvement in prenatal care can have significant positive outcomes on the health of his children.
A study conducted between 1999 and 2005 showed that male partner involvement reduced the chances of a child contracting HIV from an infected mother by 40 percent. As UNICEF Senior HIV and AIDS Advisor Dr. Chewe Luo points out, “Fathers, and supportive partners, cannot be underestimated in the effort to eliminate HIV transmission from mothers to their babies.”
Although testing of pregnant mothers is a standard in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Mwangaza’s are from, not all mothers are tested early enough to maximize the preventative measures that can be used to prevent transmission of the HIV virus to an unborn child. This is why male partner involvement is such a major component of having positive health outcomes for unborn children. The earlier a woman is tested so that she can begin treatment leads to a higher likelihood that she will have a child who is HIV-free. UNICEF also points out that women being tested at the same time their male partners are helps reduce the taboo of being tested and also helps women commit to treatment during pregnancy because the male partner is aware of her status.
World Health Organization statistics are showing that pregnant women are getting tested at a much higher rate with 44 percent of pregnant women in low and middle income African countries being tested in 2012 compared to just 8 percent in 2005. Testing and male partner involvement will continue to empower women to take the necessary preventative steps to give birth to children who do not have to come into the world HIV positive.