On Eve of World AIDS Day, UNICEF Report Says Virtual Elimination of Pediatric HIV/AIDS Appears Within Reach

Nov 30, 2010, 13:49 ET from Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the world prepares to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, UNICEF released their report, "Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS," declaring that the achievable goal of eliminating HIV infections in children is the new global measure of success in the fight against pediatric AIDS.

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Children and AIDS: Fifth Stocktaking Report, 2010 offers key insights into the changing landscape of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment for children, and documents that those on the frontlines of the epidemic have turned a significant corner in scaling-up prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services worldwide.

"The momentum of the global health community behind the elimination of pediatric HIV and AIDS should be applauded," said Charles Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.  "We must build on our success, scale-up what we know works, and encourage new innovations to overcome even the greatest of obstacles."

The UNICEF report highlighted that while overall progress is real and should be recognized, many challenges remain.  Although a majority of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries are receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to prevent transmission of the virus to their infants, the report suggests that all pregnant women living with HIV must have access to the more complex drug regimens called for under the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for PMTCT.  Implementing and sustaining these benefits worldwide will require full integration of PMTCT services within national maternal and child health programs.

The report also cites significant gains in PMTCT coverage, but also notes that only one-third of infants born to HIV-positive mothers receive ARVs to prevent transmission, increasing only slightly from 2008. Significant improvements are needed for mothers and mother-baby pairs to ensure that services continue during breastfeeding, all babies are tested early for HIV, and every HIV-infected infant get onto therapy as soon as possible.

Pioneering solutions must also be employed to better engage communities and create demand for these services and ensure that women and babies remain in care.  While the goal is to have every woman deliver in a health facility, obstacles such as severe weather or lengthy travel distances often result in women delivering their babies at home.  As a way to overcome some of these issues, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation joined with UNICEF last month to launch the Mother Baby Pack (MBP).  Created to tackle logistical challenges in delivering critical medicines to pregnant mothers and their newborn babies, the MBP is given to mothers during their first prenatal visit, and contains the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and prophylactic antibiotics needed to prevent HIV transmission from mother to baby.  

"There are still more than 1,000 babies newly infected with HIV every day. Virtually every one of those infections is preventable," said Lyons.  "Reaching mothers and babies around the world with the services they need to prevent the spread of HIV is not only the right thing to do, it will also help us realize a generation born free of HIV."

About the Foundation:

The Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS, and has reached nearly 10 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It works at 5,000 sites in 17 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute strategic and targeted global advocacy activities in order to bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.

SOURCE Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation