The goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS infections among children and ensuring that infected mothers stay healthy throughout pregnancy and after delivery can be met by the 2015 deadline with sufficient political commitment and adequate resources, the head of the United Nations agency spearheading the global response to the pandemic said today.
“Mother by mother, clinic by clinic, and country by country we can reach pregnant women with HIV services to ensure their babies are born free from HIV and to improve their own health,” said Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) who is currently visiting South Africa.
According to UNAIDS, an estimated 90 per cent of new HIV infections among children occur in 22 countries across sub-Saharan Africa and India.
A global plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keep their mothers healthy and alive was launched during the UN high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York in June. It was developed by a global team co-chaired by UNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Mr. Sidibé visited Zola clinic in the Johannesburg suburb of Soweto, where 15 pregnant women are seen each day. South Africa has an ambitious HIV testing and counselling programme that has reached more than 13 million people since April last year.
Representatives from the 22 most affected countries will meet in South Africa next week to assess country plans. The two-day meeting will focus on country gap analysis and how to boost momentum in the campaign against HIV infections among children.
“South Africa has shown visionary leadership in the AIDS response in recent years,” said Mr. Sidibé when he met with South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday.
“In such a short period of time real results for people can be seen across the country. I am looking forward, over the next few days, to meeting the men and women who are making this happen and the families which are seeing the benefits.”