International Organizations Agree to Take Concerted Action to End Pediatric HIV/AIDS – “No child should enter this world infected with HIV.”
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 20, 2010/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A global alliance of international organizations, including the heads of UNICEF, UNAIDS and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as other NGOs including the Pan African Treatment Access Movement, Health GAP, Ugandan Pediatric Association and the Global AIDS Alliance today agreed to take concerted action to eliminate pediatric HIV/AIDS over the next five years, preventing nearly 400,000 children annually from beginning their lives infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
“Every day, almost 1,000 babies are infected with HIV – and without diagnosis and treatment, half of these babies will not live to see their second birthdays,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “If we are committed to saving children’s lives, we must be committed to the effective elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV.”
Currently, in resource poor settings, over 2 million children less than 15 years of age are living with HIV/AIDS around the world. In 2008, less than half of all pregnant HIV positive women received drugs for prevention of parent-to-newborn transmission. By scaling up this intervention, parent-to-newborn transmission could be reduced to fewer than 5%.
“In 2009 I called for the virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV. This is the route to eliminating pediatric AIDS,” said Mr. Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director. “In addition, children living with HIV must have a secure future and have full access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.”
Many groups are already working intensively on pediatric AIDS. However, it is essential that the international community overcome bottlenecks and ensure that the necessary resources are available to fund the interventions needed to prevent, treat, and care for children with HIV/AIDS.
“The Global Fund is committed to improving the quality of programs to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child so that no child is born with HIV by 2015 and so that the health of HIV-positive women is prioritized,” says Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “ARV regimens being offered to pregnant women, newborns and families must be optimal and accessible; resources for HIV transmission prevention and pediatric AIDS must be increased and current funding in this area must be used effectively and efficiently. We can reach the goal of an HIV-free generation by 2015, but not unless we continue to invest resources.”
A new status report on ending pediatric HIV/AIDS was also released today by the Global AIDS Alliance’s Campaign to End Pediatric AIDS (CEPA). The report provides evidence of how intensified efforts to reduce pediatric HIV/AIDS globally and in six key countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) are succeeding.
“Children in Africa are living with this debilitating disease and dying needlessly-and this is both a tragedy and an outrage,” said Graca Machel, Chairperson of the CEPA Leadership Council. “How can we stand back and watch the suffering of our children when we know that the world has the necessary means — medical, financial, intellectual– to end the destruction that is pediatric HIV and AIDS?”
The report highlights how, in the past year, a new approach to HIV/AIDS involving local stakeholders in sub-Saharan African countries has accelerated efforts to overcome bottlenecks to going to scale with pediatric HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services. Children’s lives can be saved by reaching 80% coverage of comprehensive programs to prevent parent-to-child transmission (PPTCT+) and provide lifesaving HIV/AIDS medicines to children already HIV infected.
Pediatric HIV/AIDS has been virtually eliminated in the global North. The heads of UNICEF, UNAIDS and the Global Fund agreed to take every necessary action–as a collective joint force–to overcome seven critical bottlenecks blocking progress to end pediatric HIV/AIDS by December 31, 2015: Advancing family centered care and nutrition; accelerating early infant diagnosis & treatment; ensuring access to appropriate medicines and commodities; meeting financial requirements; mobilizing political and programmatic action; overcoming human resources crisis; and overcoming stigma and discrimination.
To date, the Agreement has been signed by Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, Mr. Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, and Professor Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, & Malaria, as well as the following global leaders: Mrs. Graca Machel, Chairperson, Leadership Council, Campaign to End Pediatric HIV/AIDS (CEPA); Ms. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Global Ambassador, Born HIV Free Campaign; His Excellency, and Mr. Festus G. Mogae, Founder, Champions for an HIV-Free Generation.
The agency heads are also calling on other global leaders to commit to taking this action.
This announcement was made in conjunction with a press conference at the 18th International AIDS Conference in Vienna. In addition to the heads of UNICEF, UNAIDS, and the Global Fund, the press conference featured Rolake Odetoyinbo, Civil Society Leadership Representative, CEPA Action Team, and Dr. Elly Katabira, President-Elect, International AIDS Society. The next International AIDS Conference will take place in Washington D.C. in July of 2012.