Reportaje

African Ambassadors and UNAIDS join hands to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV

03 June 2010

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UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé addressing the Ambassadors to the African Union. 31 May 2010

Preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child was high on the agenda at a meeting in Geneva of 50 Ambassadors to the African Union and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

Each year, nearly 400 000 children in Africa are born with HIV. An estimated 45% of HIV-positive pregnant women in the region receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission to their children, and just 28% of pregnant women are tested for HIV. In many countries on the African continent, AIDS has become the leading cause of death among infants and young children.

Strong leadership and political will are vital to achieve universal access and the Millennium Development Goals.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé

“HIV infections in infants have been virtually eliminated in many high-income countries,” said Mr Sidibé. “Now we must apply the tools at our disposal to create an HIV-free generation in Africa.” The lives of mothers and their babies can be saved through a combination of HIV testing and counselling, access to effective antiretroviral prophylaxis and treatment, safer delivery practices, family planning, and counselling and support for optimal infant feeding practices.

During the meeting, Mr Sidibé recognized the substantial achievements of African countries in the AIDS response. More than 4 million people in Africa are now accessing antiretroviral treatment, up from about 2.1 million in 2007. In the last six years, approximately 400 000 new infections have been averted on the African continent.

Despite progress, the continent faces major challenges. “The financial crisis poses a serious threat to sustaining the gains that have been made,” said Mr Sidibé. “Strong leadership and political will are vital to achieve universal access and the Millennium Development Goals.” Mr Sidibé urged African Union Member States to boost their investments in health and to advocate for a fully financed Global Fund in order to sustain and expand the number of people on antiretroviral treatment.

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Preventing the transmission of HIV from mother to child was high on the agenda at a meeting in Geneva of 50 Ambassadors to the African Union and UNAIDS Executive Director. 31 May 2010

There was consensus among Ambassadors that—in a time of scarce resources— expanding knowledge and information on HIV was especially important. “With 1.4 million people dying each year in Africa from HIV-related causes, there is an urgent need to increase awareness of this disease,” said H.E. Mr Arcanjo Do Nascimento, Chair of the Group of Ambassadors of the African Union.

The Ambassadors appealed to UNAIDS to support African countries in finding innovative financing mechanisms that complement the resources provided by external donors. They also called on UNAIDS to support the advocacy efforts of African leaders for access to affordable, high-quality, essential drugs for acute and chronic diseases, including antiretroviral drugs.

The meeting was held in the lead-up to the July 2010 Summit of the African Union which will focus on maternal, infant and child health. The Summit will offer an opportunity to highlight progress and challenges in advancing Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which call for reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.