A small pouch that contains a single dose of antiretroviral medication allows HIV positive women to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission, even during home births.
Every single year, 400,000 children become HIV positive via transmission from their mother. Mother-to-child transmission can happen during childbirth or breastfeeding. While there is no cure to an HIV infection, the risk of transmission can be largely reduced by administering antiretroviral medication to the babies. However, it is critical for this to happen in a timely way, ideally within 24 hours of birth.
This can be problematic for mothers in remote or rural areas who deliver at home without medical supervision. For years, the Developing World Healthcare Technologies Lab at Duke University experimented with various packaging methods, to help HIV positive mothers administer the drugs to their infants at home. Several prototypes, including syringes, were unsuccessful as they led to the retroviral drugs’ destruction over time through leakage or moisture loss.
After several rounds of trial and error, the team found a solution: the Pratt Pouch. The pouches, which resemble ketchup packets, contain single doses of neviparine that remain stable for a whole year, thanks to the custom-designed packaging, keeping contents at temperatures of up to 40°C. This means that an HIV positive mother can receive the medication during a prenatal appointment and store it at home for months. After the mother gives birth, she simply needs to tear the pouch open and squeeze its contents into the newborn’s mouth.
“A lot of people are talking about an AIDS-free generation. The only way to accomplish that is if HIV-positive mothers have HIV-negative children, and at the moment, the Pratt Pouch is the only solution for mothers who can’t deliver in a clinic.”
- Robert Malkin, director of the Developing World Healthcare Technologies Lab
The Pratt Pouch is a simple and practical solution to an international problem, and could potentially save thousands of lives. It was tested in Ecuador, Tanzania and Zambia and delivered positive results. It received favourable feedback from international health organisations WHO and USAID. The Pratt Pouch is distributed by Maternova.