Angola Targets Progress in Health Infrastructure and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV

By Lisa Marie Albert, Pediatric HIV Care and Treatment Intern, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID, Global Health Fellows Program II

 

A proud mother smiles as her baby is weighed.

Two Weeks Ago:

As African heads of states are preparing to converge on Washington for the leader’s summit, I am standing in a downtown square in the capital of Angola. I am surrounded by booming construction and historic landmarks, including 18 large pink boulders that bare nameplates of each of the country’s provinces. As I run my fingers across the nameplate for Luanda, my Angolan colleague, Gilberto Agostinha, points to an old apartment structure across the park that is littered with bullet holes from the Angolan civil war.

Nameplates mark Angola's 18 provinces

 

I realize that many , people suffered where I am standing. Although remnants of the country’s 27-year civil war still remain, my Angolan colleagues are optimistic. One of them, Gisele Guimaraes, assures me that Angola is a peaceful place, that it is “going somewhere.”

Bullets from Angola's former civil war litter to top floor of this apartment building

Though only 12 years have passed since the fighting ended, this crowded country is bustling with activity. Progress and growth are evident. Construction sites dot the landscape, where roads and high rises are being built. Health facilities are among the recent additions.

Construction is booming in Luanda, Angola.

Back in Washington, D.C., the promise of Angola’s progress shines in other ways. Manuel Domingos Vicente , Vice President, Republic of Angola and Excellency George Rebelo Chicoti, Minister of External Relations, Republic of Angola, are in Washington D.C. for the joint US-Africa Summit (August 4-6). This Summit, hosted by U.S. President Obama, is the first of its kind, with a focus on promoting international business relationships with African countries.

Kerry and Vicente talk at the US-Africa Summit.

The reason for my visit to Angola is to help assess the PEPFAR-funded USAID program of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT). In 2002, there were only three PMTCT clinics in Angola; by March 2014, there were 427. With these efforts, there has been a drop in the number of children dying of AIDS as well as a decline in the number of new HIV infections.

In March 2014, the Angolan Ministry of Health further emphasized the scale up of PMTCT, aiming to have 800 facilities newly trained by 2015.  Currently, PEPFAR supported clinics have a 64% PMTCT coverage rate and, in line with the Angolan PMTCT strategy, are working toward testing and providing effective, lifelong treatment for 90% of eligible pregnant mothers.

Women are waiting to be seen at an Antenatal clinic in the suburbs of Luanda, Angola.

Angola’s Vice President, in his press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry the summit, said “Without peace and security … there is no investment.” As peace and security in Angola blossom, investments in the country’s future continue. Angola recently held its first national census since 1970, and hopes are in the air for a Demographic and Health Survey. Every day, Angolan PMTCT programs reach more women and more children are born HIV-free.

 

There is an Angolan proverb that reads: The one who throws the stone forgets; the one who is hit remembers forever. Though Angola’s difficult history will not soon be forgotten, stones are no longer flying. Bullet holes are being filled in and painted over. Peace and investment in Angola – and in the health of its people – continues to move, and in the right direction.

USAID, Jphiego, and Antenatal Clinic staff

Thanks to the help of editors: 

B. Ryan Phelps, MD, MPH, FAAP, Medical Officer for PMTCT and Pediatric HIV, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID
Celia Karp, Public Affairs Intern | Global Health Fellows Program II
Anouk Amzel MD, MPH, FAAP, Senior Pediatric HIV/PMTCT Technical Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS, USAID

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