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Protecting Mothers & Children From HIV/AIDS

Countries must do more to protect mothers and children from HIV/AIDS - UN

6 March 2008 - With over 1,100 children being infected with HIV daily, United Nations organizations have appealed to countries to bolster efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmissions (PMTCT) of the virus.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, jointly called on authorities to step up protection for mothers and children at the end of a three-day global meeting on HIV/AIDS in Washington yesterday.

"An AIDS-free generation is no longer an imagined ideal - it can be a reality," said Jimmy Kolker, Chief of UNICEF's HIV Section. "We know what works to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to children. Governments and donors must act now to scale up PMTCT services."

Women account for half of all new HIV infections world and 90 per cent of all new infections in children are due to mother-to-child transmissions.

However, there is a marked disparity between high and low-income countries regarding PMTCT and paediatric HIV treatment. In wealthier nations, the number of infants born with HIV has dropped to less than 2 per cent thanks to widespread PMTCT services, while in poorer countries, as many as nine out of 10 HIV-positive pregnant women do not receive the necessary medicines to prevent transmission.

Without proper treatment, children who acquire HIV from their mothers will not live to see their second birthday. Also, currently only 11 per cent of children worldwide in need of anti-retroviral treatment receive it.

The organizations appealed to nations to prioritize PMTCT as well as paediatric care, support and treatment in their grant proposals for the latest round of the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which to date has contributed more than $10 billion to fight the diseases through 550 programmes in 136 countries.

They also urged authorities to utilize available funding through the Global Fund and other mechanisms to increase the availability of PMTCT and paediatric treatment.

ENDS

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