Keeping the promise on ‘mother-to-child transmission-free zones’

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Keeping the promise on ‘mother-to-child transmission-free zones’

21 September 2010

Mr Jeffrey Sachs, special adviser to the UN Secretary General on the MDGs and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director. 21 September, 2010.

Preventing mothers and babies from becoming infected with HIV was the focus at the Millennium Promise 2010 Partners’ Meeting, a side-event organized by the Millennium Promise in conjunction with the MDG Summit.

The aim of the meeting was to assess progress made by the partnerships within the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an initiative designed to show that MDG targets can be achieved with an integrated and simultaneous package of health and development interventions.

Participants also discussed the way forward to achieve MTCT-Free Zones by 2015, which are regions where mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been eliminated. 

In September 2009, UNAIDS, its Cosponsors and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, embarked on a pilot initiative to establish MTCT-Free Zones in villages spread across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This effort is being carried out through the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).

The meeting highlighted business activities and innovations that have emerged from the MVP, as well as high-profile partnerships supporting these efforts.

By working through the MVP, UNAIDS and the Earth Institute are able to couple the PMTCT initiative with the Millennium Villages’ core work. This collaboration reflects the shared commitment to bring together MVP’s multi-sectoral and evidence-informed development and primary health care strategy with UNAIDS and Cosponsors’ expertise in community and family-centered PMTCT and greater involvement of people living with HIV.

The partnership is yielding good results. Over the past year, all 10 countries where UNAIDS and the MVP are working have brokered relationships, prepared action plans, and commenced activities in the villages. Field teams are addressing systemic barriers such as low antenatal and post-natal care coverage, poor referral systems, poor access to early infant diagnosis services, low male involvement, and stigma.

The collaboration has helped countries to expand their PMTCT approach, increase PMTCT service coverage and enable infected children to be identified earlier, facilitating timely entry to care. The project is being expanded to adjacent villages and districts, and some countries are exploring national scale up.