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Carla Bruni-Sarkozy calls on world to eliminate mother to child HIV transmission by 2015

22 September 2009

Challenges the world to double the number of HIV-positive pregnant women on effective antiretroviral treatment within 18 months

New York City – Carla Bruni-Sarkozy will call upon world leaders to commit to eliminating the transmission of HIV from mothers to children by 2015. Ms Bruni-Sarkozy will address the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and government leaders Wednesday 23 September at a side event to the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. To reach that goal, she will ask global leaders to ensure a doubling of the number of HIV-positive pregnant women who receive effective antiretroviral treatment within eighteen months.

Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy is the Global Fund’s Ambassador for the protection of mothers and children against AIDS, giving a voice on the global stage for the many mothers and children infected with or affected by HIV and AIDS.

According to figures from the World Health Organization, at the end of 2007, one third of all pregnant women living with HIV were estimated to have access to preventive antiretroviral treatment services for AIDS worldwide and only one fifth of women in low-and-middle income countries are tested for HIV before giving birth. WHO will soon release new figures showing substantive progress over the past year.

“Isn’t it an immense injustice that thousands of children still are born with HIV when treatment exists, when no baby needs to be born with HIV?” Ms Bruni-Sarkozy says in her speech to the world leaders.

She states that if we are going to achieve the wider goals of improving health, development and growth in developing countries, women’s needs and rights must be ensured. “In large parts of the world, the face of AIDS is a woman’s face, and often the face of a mother, a mother afraid for herself and for her child. Isn’t this a major failure of our efforts to promote development, when women under treatment can better care for themselves and their families, and form the solid foundation of an entire community, an entire economy?”

The Global Fund joins UNAIDS and UNICEF in Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy’s call to action. Michel Kazatchkine, the Executive Director of the Global Fund, said, “Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s vision of a world where mothers no longer fear transmitting HIV to their babies is not a utopia. We have the tools to achieve the target of nearly eliminating HIV transmission in every country in the world.”

The Global Fund recognizes that preventing HIV-positive mothers from dying and babies from being infected with HIV is critical to efforts to achieve the health-related Millennium Development Goals. These international goals were agreed by the United Nations in 2000 and include achieving substantial improvements in maternal and child health as well as to turn around the global pandemics of AIDS, TB and malaria.

Countries will work with Global Fund support to ensure that 80 percent of programs to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to children financed by the Global Fund switch from single-dose Nevirapine to more effective dual and triple therapy regimens in the next 18 months. More emphasis and funds will be applied to comprehensive programs addressing reproductive health and the strengthening of maternal and child health services.

By reaching these targets the ultimate goal of elimination of HIV transmission from mothers to children by 2015 will be within reach.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy speech: A call to action: Protecting mothers and children against AIDS
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Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV: Some Facts

  • The number of HIV+ pregnant women receiving ARV prophylaxis increased from 10 per cent in 2004 to over 30 per cent in 2007. New WHO figures to be released soon will show further progress, but the pace must increase further to reach the goal of near elimination of HIV transmission by 2015.
  • Each day 1,200 children under the age of 15 years become infected with HIV. 90% of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, a third of pregnant HIV+ women received the ARV treatment to prevent transmitting the infection to their infants, compared to almost full coverage in western Europe.
  • 68 per cent of the global burden is in ten African countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe.
  • UNAIDS has called for a virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015. This is also a priority area for UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA.
  • HIV is particularly aggressive in children and can quickly progress to severe disease and death. Without treatment, half of HIV+ children die before their second birthday.
  • Women living with HIV cannot access prevention of mother to child transmission services if they do not know they are infected. Without it, a mother cannot be referred for ARV drugs and infant feeding counseling to protect her baby.
  • Stigma continues to be a barrier to access and adherence to PMTCT. Family and spousal support is crucial to enable women to overcome this hurdle.