Background: The Ministry of Health, Jamaica, is scaling-up programmes to improve the health of HIVpositive pregnant women according to the modified WHO recommended preventative mother to child transmission (pMTCT) regimens of therapy based upon the mother’s clinical and immunological status. Highly-active antiretroviral drugs (HAART) can result in successful pMTCT to < 1%. We report the clinical and immunological characteristics of HIV/AIDS in an era of evolving treatment and care of HIV-infected pregnant Jamaican women.
Subjects and Method: Clinical records were reviewed of patients registered in antenatal clinics in Greater Kingston and St Catherine, Jamaica (annual birth cohort – 20 000) between September 2002 and August 2006. Disease status was determined using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classification system for adult HIV/AIDS. Demographic, clinical and laboratory data were documented and analyzed.
Results: During the four-year period, 571 HIV-infected women were enrolled; 62% from Victoria Jubilee Hospital, 25% from Spanish Town Hospital and 13% from the University Hospital of the West Indies. Mean age was 27–29 (range 15–41) years, median parity was 2 (range 0–9) and 68–70% were unemployed. Ninety-five per cent had live births. CDC categories of illnesses were A - mild disease in 82% (n = 473), B - moderate disease in 4.4% (n = 24) and C - severe disease in 1.4% (n = 8) while 12% (n = 66) had insufficient data. During the first three years, CD4+ cell counts were evaluated in only 2.5% (10 of 406) of patients with median of 344 cells/uL, compared to CD4 evaluation in 50% (83 of 165 women) in the last year with median of 573 cells/uL. Antiretroviral (ARV) medications primarily for pMTCT were given to 89% (n = 506) of women. Of these, uptake of HAART increased during years 1–3 from 2–3% to 62% in year four. Within two years post-partum, 24 women died, 92% (n = 22) from the direct complications of HIV/AIDS.
Conclusion: A comprehensive system of care of HIV in the peripartum period has been developed in Jamaica. Detailed medical evaluation during pregnancy is performed with modern guidelines and increasing laboratory availability of CD4+ cell counts and viral loads. We believe declining HIV infection rates in Jamaican infants and healthier mothers are a direct consequence of increased testing in pregnancy with early diagnosis and initiation of HAART-based pMTCT regimens in pregnant women.