Every day more than one thousand babies are born infected with HIV. Half won’t live to see their second birthdays.
The tragedy is that virtually all of these infections are preventable. Inexpensive anti-retroviral drugs exist that can block mother to child transmission of the virus – but they aren’t getting to the women and babies who need them in the developing world. In sub-Saharan Africa — home to two-thirds of the 33 million AIDS cases worldwide — just 45% of HIV positive pregnant women receive anti-retroviral medication according to UNAIDS.
Why? For one thing, healthcare facilities throughout the region are pitifully understaffed. For another, scores of women simply aren’t getting tested for HIV. But concerted efforts work. A recent study in Botswana by the Harvard School of Public Health shows that antri-retroviral medications prevent babies from contracting HIV from their mothers 99% of the time. UNAIDS has also seen an increase in women accessing services in South Africa.
Michel Sidibe, head of UNAIDS believes it’s possible to virtually eliminate mother to baby transmission in the ten most affected countries by the year 2015. But it can’t be done without the continued commitment to funding programs and research. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s $1.4 billion pledge to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at the start of the Millennium Development Goals Summit last week was a big step in the right direction. The momentum has to continue.
ONE, the anti-poverty advocacy organization co-founded by Bono, just released a new public service announcement narrated by Grammy Award- winning singer and activist Alicia Keys that calls for a world in which no child is born with HIV by the year 2015.
Take a look and tell us what you think:
Take Action! Sign the petition calling on world leaders to ensure The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis has the resources necessary to achieve its work.
ONE timed the release of its public service announcement to coincide with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit last week in New York. Preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV spans three of the eight goals: Goal #4, which seeks to reduce child mortality by two thirds in children under five; Goal #5, which targets reducing maternal mortality by three quarters; and Goal #6, which aims to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class (AW) Shane McCoy