WASHINGTON, June 8, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in New York City, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) joined world leaders, partners and advocates to mark the historic progress achieved in prevention and treatment of pediatric HIV under the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive (Global Plan) and to lay out a new roadmap to place the world on a Super Fast-Track to effectively end the AIDS epidemic in children, adolescents, and young women by 2020.
These developments, combined with the significant announcement last evening that Thailand, Armenia and Belarus have joined Cuba as countries officially certified by the World Health Organization as having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV, are cause for real optimism in the fight to end AIDS in children and keep women, children and adolescents healthy.
"Today UNAIDS and PEPFAR noted that the progress achieved under the Global Plan amounts to one of the greatest public health achievements of recent times. The tireless efforts of so many — national governments and health systems, bilateral and multilateral organizations, NGOs, civil society advocates, and the private sector — have put us in the remarkable position of being able to discuss the end of AIDS in children, not as a prayer of hope or a dream for some distant future, but as a possible reality, backed by evidence and experience, that may lie only a mere five years beyond the horizon," said Charles Lyons, EGPAF President and CEO. "The fact that we are discussing such a reality with sincerity and seriousness is a testament to how far and fast we've come."
A new report released today, On the Fast-Track to an AIDS-free generation, revealed that substantial progress has been achieved in a relatively short time under the Global Plan. In the five years since it was launched, new HIV infections in children have been reduced by 60 percent in the 21 Global Plan priority countries and over 1 million new HIV infections in children have been averted. It is not only the scale of this progress but the speed at which it was achieved that allows us to propose an ambitious way forward.
In order to harness the enormous momentum catalyzed by the Global Plan, EGPAF has joined a coalition of partners, led by UNAIDS and the U.S. President's Plan for Emergency Relief (PEPFAR), in launching Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free. – a unified framework to end vertical HIV transmission, cut new infections among adolescents and young women, and increase and sustain access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) by children and adolescents.
A set of new and bold Super Fast-Track Targets form the backbone of this effort, including goals to reduce new HIV infections in children to under 40,000 by 2018, and 20,000 by 2020 and to reach and sustain 95% of pregnant women living with HIV with lifelong HIV treatment by 2018. Yet, enormous challenges still lie in the way of achieving these goals.
Globally, while access to treatment for children has increased, children are still not being started on treatment early enough, and without it 50 percent of HIV-infected children will die before their second birthday. Intense focus must be placed on reaching and retaining mothers during the crucial breastfeeding period, where 60 percent of new HIV infections in children by mother-to-child transmission are now occurring. And while the push to provide "Treatment for All" is an essential step toward increasing treatment coverage for HIV positive pregnant women, continued emphasis is needed on more efficient HIV testing and treatment regimens, new diagnostic technologies, and efforts to strengthen health systems to achieve this ambitious goal.
By meeting and overcoming these challenges, the world will be able to achieve not only one of the first major and necessary victories on the road to ending AIDS by 2030, but will also pave the way for other milestones for the health of women, children and adolescents.
"Ending the epidemic in children, adolescents, young women and mothers in the next five years is absolutely key to defeating it altogether by 2030 - the deadline set by the Sustainable Development Goals," said Lyons. "But without taking the concerted steps and commitment of resources articulated by Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free, we will not only be in jeopardy of missing this fragile window of opportunity, but also risk rolling back the substantial gains made to date."
About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF):
EGPAF is the global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS and has reached more than 24 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. In 2015 -2016, EGPAF is supporting activities in 19 countries and more than 6,000 sites to implement prevention, care, and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute global advocacy activities that bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide. For more information, visit www.pedaids.org.
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SOURCE Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation