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In Utero Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV-1 and the Associated Factors in Rwanda, Africa.

Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV-1 and associated mortality continue to occur at unacceptably high rates, despite the extensive rollout and implementation of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Programs, including the modified versions of Option B and B+ in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Maternal HIV viral load (VL) and socio-behavioral factors sustaining MTCT in Rwanda remain largely unexplored. The study examined the effects of socio-behavioral factors on maternal VL and their contribution to in utero transmission of HIV-1 in the context of Rwanda's HIV epidemic. A prospective cohort study was conducted in 862 mother-baby pairs enrolled in 10 PMTCT clinics in Rwanda. VL was determined on plasma and Dried Blood Spots samples, whereas HIV DNA PCR was performed to determine in utero MTCT of HIV of the babies immediately at birth and then at 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 months, and 18 months, together with HIV antibody testing to determine other forms of MTCT of HIV. Quantitative data on socio-behavioral factors were collected through a structured questionnaire. Linear regression and univariate analysis of variances using SPSS 25.0 were used to test the hypotheses. We found 22/862 (2.55%) cases of in utero transmission and a total of 32/862 (3.7%) cases of MTCT of HIV-1 over 18 study months. Maternal VL at delivery was significantly associated with the risk of in utero transmission of HIV-1. Socio-behavioral factors associated with elevated maternal VL at delivery included alcohol, smoking, multiple sexual partners, mothers' income, being a casual laborer, and distance to health care services. We report an MTCT rate of 3.7% in our study population over the 18 months, higher than the national average of 1.5%, the majority of which occurred in utero . MTCT cases were attributable to failure to suppress maternal VL.

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