NAIROBI, KENYA, 27, May 2010 - Government representatives from 20 African countries highly affected by HIV/AIDS gathered today in Nairobi to discuss ways to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015.
The three-day-consultation from 26 to 28 May is co-organized by the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UN agencies, including UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO. Participants are exploring how to expand and strengthen services for pregnant women and increase treatment for infected mothers and children. The 20 countries Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Uganda, Cameroon, DRC, Cote d'Ivoire, Burundi, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland account for over 85% of the global burden of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MTCT).
Opening the consultation 'AIDS and the MDGs: Towards Virtual Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV,' Dr. James Gesami, Assistant Minister for Public Health and Sanitation of Kenya, called for urgent action by African leaders. "It cannot be business as usual. We can save the lives of nearly half a million children annually by acting now," he said.
"The UNAIDS family stands united to make virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission a reality," said, Elhadj As Sy UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. "PMTCT is one of the HIV interventions where we have enough evidence to scale up successful interventions. We now also have bold guidelines from WHO on PMTCT. And we have unprecedented support from funding agencies such as the Global Fund and PEPFAR. In sum, there is no reason why we should not be able to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission. UNICEF is committed to take a lead role in this."
"The Global Fund will work with the 20 countries present at this meeting to reprogramme their grants with a view to providing additional resources for virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. PMTCT is a high priority when the Global Fund approaches donors for additional funding in this replenishment year," said Fareed Abdullah, Africa Unit Director of the Global Fund during the meeting.
Transmission of HIV from mothers to their children has nearly been eliminated in high income countries. Each year, more than 350,000 new HIV infections occur in children in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of mother-to-child transmission. As per 2008 data, globally only 45 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in the region receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission to their children. Virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission requires a high coverage of HIV testing and counseling, access to effective antiretroviral prophylaxis and treatment, safe delivery and infant feeding practices.
Participants at the conference include senior staff from National AIDS Councils, Ministries of Health and civil society organizations as well as experts from the Global Fund, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, the European Commission and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Following the conference, countries will review their national plans and identify current challenges and gaps in quality services. They will also review how they can rapidly adapt and implement the new WHO guidance on treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and infant feeding. The guidance calls for increased treatment and enhanced prophylaxis for mothers and babies which will dramatically bring down the number of new HIV infections.
Countries will work to re-programme existing funding to achieve better results based on the new WHO standards. They will also prepare ambitious plans to mobilize additional funds from the Global Fund, which recently launched its new Round 10 Call for Proposals.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For more information and interview requests, please contact:
Kun Li, UNICEF,
Tel +254 734813983,
Saira Stewart, UNAIDS,
Nathan Shaffer, WHO,
Veronique Taveau, Global Fund
Tel + 41587911128,
In New York:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York,
Tel: 212 326 7452,