News Releases

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Melinda Gates in Benin to promote women and children's health

27 January 2010

Cotonou – Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Melinda Gates visited Global Fund-supported programs in Benin on today to promote the need to invest in women and children’s health.

After decades of neglect, promotion of prevention of mother-to-child transmission has acquired new urgency. By the end of 2008, 45 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women were being reached with preventive treatment. The Global Fund finances more than half of all treatment to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their children.

With sustained investment, the world can reach the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission by 2015.

Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy, travelling in her capacity as Global Fund Ambassador, was joined by Mrs Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Gates Foundation, who earlier visited Malawi. They met with women and children at a health facility to witness efforts being made to prevent the transmission of the disease from HIV-positive mothers to their children.

Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy said, "Today the fight against AIDS is benefitting the health of mothers and children overall. That's why it is crucial that we strengthen our efforts, and continue to educate women about their health. If we do this, we can eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child."

“The Global Fund is saving lives by providing life-saving tools, from HIV drugs to basic childhood vaccines, to those who need them most, but continued support from donor nations and other partners is needed to sustain their efforts, “ said Melinda French Gates.

They visited l’Auberge de l’Amour Rédempteur in Dangbo, in the Ouémé Region, which offers a full range of maternity and general medical services, and benefits from Global Fund financing for antiretroviral and other HIV-related medicines, HIV testing, medical personnel and training of health workers.

According to UNAIDS, approximately 69,000 people are currently living with the disease in Benin and about 5,000 of these are estimated to be children. The HIV prevalence rate among women is 1.5 percent, which is close to double the rate among men. Average prevalence for the entire population is 1.2 percent.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has three grants in Benin supporting the fight against HIV and AIDS worth almost US$ 140 million. The grants, implemented by the Ministry of Health’s Programme National de Lutte contre le SIDA (PNLS), focus on comprehensive HIV care including Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), which forms an integral part of maternal and child health services in Benin.

“Benin has made tremendous progress in the fight against AIDS and is scaling up major efforts to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child,” said Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “I am delighted that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Melinda Gates have come to Benin to visit Global Fund-supported programs. They are giving a strong voice for the needs of mothers and children.”

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy took up her role as Global Ambassador for the protection of mothers and children against AIDS in 2008. Since then, she has led a number of activities to raise awareness and call for action against HIV and AIDS. In February 2009, she travelled to Burkina Faso to visit Global Fund-supported programs; in September 2009, she called upon world leaders at the UN General Assembly to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015; and on World AIDS Day she publicly emphasized the need to end mother-to-child transmission worldwide.

In addition to supporting Benin in its fight against HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund has also committed resources towards strengthening the country’s malaria and tuberculosis programs with approved funding of US$ 83 million and US$ 17 million, respectively, bringing the total amount of Global Fund financing for Benin to more than US$ 241 million.