Eleven SADC Member States are among the 27 countries that are estimated to account for 80% of all children living with HIV worldwide. HIV infection in children is predominantly a result of mother-to-child transmission of the virus, and is an underlying factor in many infant and childhood illnesses and deaths in the region.
There are signs, however, that prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programmes are beginning to have a noticeable impact on the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in children. Uptake of PMTCT in Member States ranges between 2% and 91%, which indicates that Member States are at very different levels of programme implementation. According to the SADC HIV Epidemic Report (2008), the uptake of PMTCT is on the increase in the region, although it is generally below universal access targets. Nine Member States recorded an increase in the uptake of PMTCT in 2007, compared to 2005. Although Universal Access targets may seem ambitious for a number of Member States, several may be able to attain them if they maintain the pace of implementation. In four SADC Member States, at least 50% of HIV-positive pregnant women were receiving PMTCT services in 2007.
In line with the overall regional integration agenda and the control of communicable and other health problems, the SADC region has drafted the Protocol on Health (2004), which guides implementation of the regional health agenda. The Protocol calls for the harmonisation of regional approaches, and regional cooperation.
These regional minimum standards serve as a harmonisation framework for regional approaches to PMTCT, and therefore form part of the operationalisation of the various declarations to which Member States are signatories. They are also in line with the regional agenda of integration.