Feature story

Women’s health communities critical to reducing maternal and child mortality in Africa

05 October 2013

Obstetricians and gynecologists, ministers, public health specialists and civil society organizations convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 2-5 October at the First International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) Africa Regional Conference to discuss ways of improving maternal and child health in Africa.

Speaking at the opening, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Luiz Loures highlighted the link between HIV and maternal and child health. He called for women’s health and HIV communities to closely work together to increase access to life-saving health services to reach the most marginalized in society.  He also stressed the need to uphold the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, women are more likely to be living with HIV than men, accounting for 58% of the 22.1 million adults who were living with HIV in the region in 2012. Young women are particularly at risk of HIV infection–– around 28% of all new adult HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa are among young women between the ages of 15-24. HIV is also a leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and has a major impact on child health and mortality, mainly through the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

Dr Loures congratulated FIGO on its visionary and bold work on women’s sexual and reproductive rights. He also underscored UNAIDS commitment to strengthening its collaboration with FIGO to raise political visibility and engage women’s networks on HIV and sexual and reproductive rights issues to reduce AIDS related maternal and child mortality.


Human rights must be at the centre of our practice as everyone has a right to live. Our primary commitment as physicians is to save lives.

Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme

FIGO looks forward to active collaboration with UNAIDS to ensure the protection of the rights of women living with HIV regarding access to their services in the health sector.

Professor Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, FIGO President

Ethiopia has made excellent progress towards achieving the millennium development goals on maternal and child health and we are grateful for the assistance from our partners, such as FIGO and UNAIDS.

Dr Amir Amare, State Minister at the Federal Ministry of Health – Ethiopia