Cameroon: Using community grapevine to prevent mother-to-child transmission

ANNE MIREILLE NZOUANKEU Special to the AmNews | 8/9/2012, 2:21 p.m.

"We try to reach as many women as possible by taking part in meetings of various women's associations. We urge these women to go to public hospitals and stay in touch with them by means of home visits," said Odette Etame, president of NOLFOWOP.

This proactive awareness-raising in the community also helps reach women who know their HIV-positive status and want to have children but have concerns.

"Thanks to PMTCT, I have a 2-year-old son who is seronegative," said Martiale T., a 32-year-old living with HIV.

Etame's association enjoys support from several institutions, including the National Health Ministry, Care International and UNICEF. Their financial support goes toward costs such as transport for members making home visits.

But if things are going well in Cite-Verte, many gaps remain in nationwide PMTCT coverage. Community support groups like NOLFOWOP are only present at some of the country's hospitals, and not all public health centers systematically test women giving birth. Etame said the model in practice at Cite-Verte should be extended across the country.

"The plan is to create at least one community support group in each of Cameroon's 179 health districts. This is already underway in some districts, but it is not yet in effect everywhere," she said.