World leaders met to decide on the launch of a global plan with the goal of ensuring that every baby is born HIV-free by 2015 and that their mothers with the HIV virus live to raise them.
According to the UN, nearly every minute a baby is born with HIV. In 2009, that meant 370,000 children became newly infected with HIV, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. At this latest meeting on AIDS, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined other leaders Thursday to launch a roadmap to achieve the goal of eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV in the next four years. The Global Plan was developed by a team led by the U.N. agency fighting AIDS and the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator.
Around the world, AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age. Many do not even know they are infected until they are pregnant. Treatment is crucial then, because when a pregnant woman receives antiretroviral drugs the risk of her child being born infected is reduced to less than five percent. It also means the mother will stay healthy longer to care for her child.
The plan aims to do it through expanding access to life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services for mothers and their children; integrating health care services for women; and empowering them to ensure their own health and that of their children.
The United States has been very active on this front and pledged an additional $75 million to the global plan. Speaking at the launch, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby noted the disparity between pediatric AIDS rates in developed versus developing countries. He said, “In the United States and Europe, pediatric AIDS is now an artefact of history, yet in many countries nearly one baby is born with HIV every minute, despite us having the know-how to prevent it. Ensuring that all babies are born HIV-free must be a global priority and not left to a lottery of geography.”
“We believe that by 2015 children everywhere can be born free of HIV and that their mothers can remain healthy,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe told the launch event, describing the plan as realistic and achievable. UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Paul De Lay told Reuters the plan was based on providing pregnant women with more information and on more effective use of anti-AIDS drugs.