Governments, donors and the international community must do more to ensure that every HIV positive pregnant woman has access to high quality Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) services, says relief and development charity World Vision.
At the United Nations in 2001, world leaders made a commitment that 80% of pregnant women with HIV would have access to services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2010. With less than two years to go to this deadline, two thirds of HIV positive pregnant women remain without access to these crucial services to prevent transmission to their children.
On World AIDS Day (1 December), World Vision is calling on the UK Government to provide details of the specific contribution it will make to meet the international target for access to PMTCT services by 2010, and how this contribution will be measured.
"The UK Government must continue to show leadership in the global response to HIV and AIDS by ensuring that all pregnant women living with HIV and their babies have access to quality services to prevent transmission of HIV and provide life-saving treatment," said Kate Eardley, World Vision’s HIV and AIDS Policy Officer.
In 2007 more than 1,000 children every day were newly infected with HIV, more than 90% of these through mother-to-child transmission (during pregnancy, delivery or breast-feeding). Without treatment more than half of these children will not reach their second birthday.
"In the UK the transmission of HIV from mothers to their infants has been virtually eliminated," says Eardley. "But without the same services around the world, nearly 1,000 babies are born with HIV every day. This is an outrage. We must act now to ensure that all babies can be protected from HIV and that their mothers have access to life-saving treatment," she continued.
By providing mothers with a range of services (access to counselling, testing and medical support, including antiretroviral drugs) the risk of transmission can be reduced to 2%, and in the UK is currently below 1%. In comparison, without these services there is a 20-45% chance that a baby born to a HIV positive mother will become infected.
Eardley concluded: "The time has come to reduce, dramatically, the numbers of children who begin their lives infected with HIV. We have extensive experience of how to prevent mother to child transmission, even in the poorest countries, but there is still an inexcusable lack of political will and resources from the international community."
World Vision has been addressing the international AIDS crisis for nearly 20 years. The organization’s first programming helped Ugandan children orphaned by AIDS and their foster families, provided care for HIV-infected infants and children in Romania, and helped young women and girls in Thailand escape prostitution
The charity has AIDS programmes in more than 60 countries. Last year in Africa alone, more than 842 000 orphans and vulnerable children received community based care with World Vision’s support while 895,000 received HIV-prevention education.