Pregnant Women Account for Nearly 2 % of HIV/AIDS Cases


Statistics from the National HIV/STI Control Programme indicate that pregnant women represent approximately 1.6 to 2 per cent of the total number of persons infected with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and the disease is the leading cause of death in children age one to four years.
Minister of Health John Junor, who divulged this information at the official opening of the Jamaica Midwives Association at 19 Sandhurst Crescent on May 5, said the programme has been working to reduce the number of children afflicted with the disease by preventing mother to children transmission.
He pointed out that midwives, being the closest health professionals to families and communities, were ideally placed to encourage pregnant women to get tested in order to prevent their children from becoming infected with the dreaded disease. “You are therefore ideally placed to transfer knowledge of a wide range of health related practices to the benefit of the individual, the family and the nation,” he stated. Noting the importance of midwives to the health care system, Mr. Junor said their work began from the child was in the womb, by encouraging proper maternal nutrition, which was critical to the proper development of babies and after delivery, by ensuring the mothers understood and practised breastfeeding. He said maternal malnutrition posed significantly increased health risks for infants such as morbidity, mortality and poor cognitive development, as well as conditions that may lead to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension and renal disease.
Mr. Junor pointed out that midwives, through their work in communities, had contributed significantly to the Ministry’s efforts to reduce child malnutrition and mortality rates and the eradication of communicable diseases, in addition to achieving a high rate of immunization coverage.
Turning to the subject of chronic diseases, Minister Junor said midwives were ideally placed to provide counselling to individual and community groups about the importance of consistently taking medication for health conditions, and on how to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Congratulating the group on their achievements and the opening of the headquarters, an occasion which coincided with the International Day of the Midwife, Mr. Junor stated, “the midwifery profession has long been a source of pride for the health care sector and Jamaica as a whole. The members of the profession have been a foundation of stability. They remain resolute in carrying out their obligations to families and communities and coming into your own headquarters marks another milestone achievement for the association and one that heralds even greater success for the profession”. He said the base would facilitate more structured networking as the Association continued to grow. Past President of the Jamaica Midwives Association and stalwart of the profession, Gwendolyn Omphery Spencer, told the gathering that midwifery in Jamaica dated as far back as 1880s and that midwives had fought long and hard to achieve the respect and recognition they now received. International Day of the Midwife was observed under the theme ‘A Voice for Healthy Families’. The idea of having a day to recognize and honour midwives came out of the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands. International Midwives’ Day was first celebrated on May 5, 1991, and is observed in over 50 nations around the world.

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