Strengthening HIV services for pregnant women: an opportunity to reduce maternal mortality rates in Southern Africa/sub-Saharan Africa

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Reliable data from South Africa emanating from WHO recommendations for the Safe Motherhood programme underscores HIV/AIDS as the most common cause of maternal deaths. The strengthening of HIV services for pregnant women especially in countries with a high burden of HIV infection will reduce HIV-related and un-related maternal mortality rates. High-quality and complete data on maternal deaths is a critical foundation for reliably monitoring temporal trends in maternal deaths, and causes thereof, but needs substantial strengthening in many resource-constrained settings.

HIV/AIDS is an increasing contributor to direct and indirect causes of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. A review of published data on maternal deaths and its association with HIV shows that reliable data come from the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths from South Africa, population-based surveys in sentinel populations, and facility-based data. Despite an increase in knowledge of the HIV status of pregnant women and the initiation of antiretroviral treatment, reversals in trends towards increased maternal deaths are not being observed. The strengthening of HIV services provides an opportunity to alter HIV epidemic trajectories and reduce maternal deaths.

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