Big celebration in Matola near Maputo, the Mozambican capital where, thanks to the DREAM program, a new center specialized in the prevention of mother to child transmission of the HIV infection and for the treatment of HIV+ children has opened its doors. The center was dedicated to Ana Maria Muhai, the first activist of the DREAM program, who was also the first woman in the country to have publicly declared her status as a testimony and encouragement for all patients in Mozambique, so that everyone could receive appropriate treatment.
The inauguration was attended by the Deputy Minister of Health of Mozambique, representatives of the diplomatic world, the Mozambican entrepreneurs and the donors who contributed to the realization of the center; many DREAM activists and patients treated in the program also attended the ceremony.
The new building is located opposite the Health Centre of Matola 2, on a piece of land made available by the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity who for more than ten years have been working with the DREAM program in the fight against HIV/AIDS, not only in Mozambique, but in many other African countries.
The Community of Sant'Egidio manages the DREAM program in the health center of Matola 2 since 2002 when it started – the first in the country – for the prevention of vertical transmission of HIV using the tri-therapy during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. This preventive approach has been able to reduce the rates of transmission of the infection to the newborn to 2% (by approximately 40% without any intervention). In addition, antiretroviral therapy has dramatically reduced maternal mortality, which in HIV+ women is particularly high.
In the last years the Program has operated in the local Health Center of Matola 2, coming to assist about 2,000 HIV+ women each year; in the Centre of Matola 2, under the DREAM program, as of today more than 4,600 children were born healthy from HIV+ women.
The prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is considered a priority in Mozambique, as has been pointed out by the Ministry of Health in the Plano Estrategico Nacional de Resposta ao HIV e SIDA 2010-2014 (PEN 2010-2014). The identified challenges are many, especially related to inadequate access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women and the lack of services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission in the area. In July 2011, the Community of Sant'Egidio has signed an agreement with the Mozambican Ministry of Health which outlines the efforts made by DREAM in the vertical prevention, the spread of tri-therapy and the expansion of its activities are encouraged, envisioning the integration and support to the National Health System.
Due to the increasing number of patients requiring assistance and the shortage of available space within the existing Health Center, it became necessary to build a new infrastructure located near the entrance of the maternity, thus allowing a better service for pregnant women. The center consists of three blocks where different services will be available: testing and counseling, blood sampling, medical appointments, pharmacy and drug warehouse, distribution of food to malnourished patients, diagnosis and treatment of opportunistic infections.
The new center represents the increasing commitment of DREAM alongside the Mozambican health system in dealing with the HIV infection, particularly in order to bring to zero the number of new infections in infants and reduce maternal mortality not only in Matola but all over the country.
The Center was made possible thanks to the contribution of the Embassy of Japan in Mozambique, the Total Foundation, the Flemish Cooperation, the Foundation Charlemagne and Mrs. Katrin Haub.
The Vice-Minister of Health inaugurated the new structure, thanking the Community of Sant'Egidio for the new facility, but also for the battle carried out in Mozambique over the years in order to make universal access to treatment for AIDS available. She also explained how the program has created a successful model of care, thanks to the active involvement of patients, a model that the Ministry of Health has today adopted to replicate its structures, with the support of DREAM.
The inauguration was also the occasion to sign a partnership agreement with Mcel, the Mozambican telephone company, which through its CEO, Theodatus Hunguana, offered free access to the Internet and a toll free line in which, in case of need, patients can have free access to the call center. It is at the same time a telephone line, which allows the medical staff to text or call patients to remind them of appointments. It is a sign of a growing challenge to DREAM: involve large companies of Mozambique to ensure the sustainability of the care to the many patients.
There was great emotion from everybody at the time of the unveiling of the plate, which announces that the center is dedicated to Ana Maria Muhai, a courageous woman who fought, witnessed and believed that the DREAM program could, from just a "dream", become a reality and the future of many of the sick in Mozambique.