Approximately half of HIV infections among children take place during breastfeeding. While there has been success in retaining pregnant women on antiretroviral therapy (ART) during pregnancy, there has been inadequate focus on retention support to
mother-baby pairs (MBPs) during the breastfeeding period.
Literature shows that the majority of MBPs not retained in prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs are due to loss to follow-up (LTFU) rather than death. These children are at higher risk of vertical acquisition of HIV compared to breastfeeding infants who remain in care. Current postpartum LTFU rates limit successful implementation of PMTCT programs in sub-Saharan Africa. Cumulative sub-Saharan Africa PMTCT LTFU rates in 2011 were estimated to range from 20-28% during antenatal care, then sharply increase to 70% at four months postpartum and reach approximately 81% six months after birth.
Given these staggering statistics, the quality and effectiveness of PMTCT services should include an assessment of the proportion of MBPs retained in care and early infant diagnosis (EID) rates.