Caring for pregnant women in Trinidad

Published: 25 May 2005 0:00 CET

Raymond Syms

Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross volunteer Sheila Ramberran hopes to share what she has learnt about mother-to-child transmission of HIV with her community and church.

But for now the single mother of two, a volunteer with the southern branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS) is looking forward to her involvement in a special project for pregnant women called Project Life.

The objective of the one-year pilot project, which started on World AIDS Day 2004, is to provide pre- and post-test counselling on HIV/AIDS to pregnant women, to prevent the possible transfer of the virus from mother to child.

By providing this support service at the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital, located in east Trinidad, the TTRCS hopes to encourage more pregnant women to get tested for HIV.

Trinidad and Tobago has the fifth highest incidence of mother-to-child transmission in the Caribbean. Six in every 1,000 live births are HIV positive.

Project Life, a collaboration between the TTRCS and the local Ministry of Health through its North Central Regional Health Authority, is being funded by the British Department for International Development (DfID), and Spanish multinational energy corporation, Repsol YPF.

Red Cross volunteers in the project received an intensive two-week training in basic HIV information, with emphasis on the risk of HIV to the unborn, care for the newborn, pregnancy and nutrition. They will participate in a refresher course every six months.

Sharon Boney-Burge, a Red Cross volunteer and registered nurse at the Port of Spain General Hospital’s Antenatal Clinic, is the co-ordinator of the project.

She explained that with so many non-governmental organizations working on other aspects of reducing the spread of HIV, not enough attention is being paid to pregnant women, who may be more vulnerable to being infected.

Robert Charles, a Red Cross volunteer from the northern branch of the National Society, said he wanted to do something to prevent the unborn contracting HIV. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Charles, the lone male Project Life volunteer at the May 6 official launch.

Charles hoped the information would be shared with the wider national community, while TTRCS Director General Lisa Lalsingh said she hoped this “worthwhile project” would evolve into a mobile service once funding became available.


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