A global plan launched today at the United Nations seeks to eliminate new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive, in an effort to save millions of lives across the developing world.
“We are here today to ensure that all children are born healthy and free of disease. We are here to ensure that their mothers live to see them grow,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the plan, known as ‘Countdown to Zero.’
“This is every mother’s wish – and we can make it a reality,” he stated.
Significant progress has been made in the past decade in reducing mother-to-child transmission, with infection rates among children born to mothers living with HIV having declined by 26 per cent from 2001 to 2009, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The agency believes that the virtual elimination of this scourge is possible by 2015, but stresses that much more needs to be done to prevent mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV.
HIV is also the leading cause of maternal mortality in developing countries, a point that was highlighted yesterday at an event at which 30 First Ladies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean joined forces to mobilize support to achieve the goal of zero new HIV infections among children by 2015.
“If it pains us to see a baby contract HIV in the developed world, that pain is felt just as much when a baby contracts HIV in the developing world,” noted the Secretary-General.
“African mothers, Asian mothers, Latin American mothers all feel the same love for their children as mothers everywhere. They deserve exactly the same options for treatment.”
A key element of the plan is to ensure that all women, especially pregnant women, have access to quality life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services – for themselves and their children.
Mr. Ban noted that some regions have nearly achieved no new infections from mother to child, and called for greater efforts to help others achieve this goal.
“If we push hard… with your continued help… with the will to do what is right for the world… we can spread this success to mothers everywhere,” he told the gathering, which also featured President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and former United States President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Ban also congratulated the co-chairs of the Global Task Team, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and US Global AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby, for preparing the global plan, which he said is the best way to achieve real results on HIV and AIDS in the context of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health – the $40 billion programme that the Secretary-General launched last year.
“We believe that by 2015 children everywhere can be born free of HIV and that their mothers can remain healthy,” said Mr. Sidibé. “This new global plan is realistic, it is achievable and it is driven by the most affected countries.”
The launch of the global plan is one of several events taking place this week as part of the three-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly on AIDS, which began yesterday.
Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic and 10 years since the Assembly’s special session on HIV/AIDS, the meeting brings together some 30 heads of State and government, along with senior officials, representatives of international organizations, civil society and people living with HIV, to chart the future course of the global AIDS response.
Ahead of the meeting, the Security Council on Tuesday adopted a resolution underlining the continuing need for urgent and coordinated global action to curb the impact of HIV and AIDS in conflict and post-conflict situations, and recognizing the important role that UN peace operations can play in responding to the epidemic.
“This is an important tool as it enhances broader international efforts in our continued fight against conflict-related sexual violence and the devastating impact it can have on the health and stability of communities,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
“The resolution addresses the links between HIV and armed conflict, not only in terms of how it affects populations, but also UN peacekeepers with which they interact,” Margot Wallström said in a statement.