On Twentieth Anniversary of World AIDS Day, Expert Urges Greater Global Emphasis on Preventing Pediatric AIDS
"A Generation Free of HIV Is Possible," Barnes Says
December 1, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- On the twentieth anniversary of World AIDS Day, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is urging the global community to reach more pregnant mothers with medicines to protect their infants from HIV, and to speed treatment to children around the world living with HIV and AIDS. According to Foundation President and CEO Pamela W. Barnes, great progress has already been made, but more leadership and a commitment of resources are needed to achieve the goal of an HIV-free generation.
In countries with advanced medical care, new medicines and treatments have practically eradicated pediatric AIDS. But around the world, some 1,000 babies are infected with HIV each day, most through mother-to-child transmission. That number used to be much higher, but the efforts of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), national governments, international institutions, and non-governmental organizations have made a real difference. Still, there is much more work to do.
"We know how to prevent babies from contracting HIV from their mothers," said Barnes. "We have the drugs to treat children already infected with HIV, allowing them to grow healthy and strong. But millions of children and families lack access to these life-saving services. Strong leadership has never been more essential. We've made tremendous progress, but too many children are still dying of this disease. We've laid the groundwork. Now it's time to lead the way toward a generation free of HIV. It is possible."
Most of the barriers to treatment exist in the developing world. Women are unaware that treatment exists, there are too few clinics to provide care to all who need it, many clinics do not have needed medications, and some medical professionals lack the training to deliver this care. As a result, only a third of pregnant women with HIV receive medicines to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies, and children lag behind adults in receiving the treatment critical to their survival. It is particularly crucial to identify HIV-positive infants and to begin treatment early. Without this intervention, half will die before their second birthday. In 2007, some 270,000 children died of AIDS-related illnesses.
The Foundation is calling on the U.S. Congress to fully fund PEPFAR, and encouraging governments and non-governmental organizations across the globe to do more to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child and to provide all children with the treatment they need to survive and thrive.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is working in 18 countries and at more than 3,200 sites to increase access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and to treat children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is the largest provider of PMTCT services under PEPFAR. Worldwide, it has reached more than 5.7 million pregnant women, and Foundation programs account for almost one third of global PMTCT treatments.
This article was provided by Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.