Statement of Nicholas Hellmann, M.D., Executive Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
– The 2010 report on universal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment released today by WHO, UNAIDS, and UNICEF shows continuing progress in scaling up global HIV/AIDS interventions. We are particularly encouraged by increased access to treatment for both pregnant women and children living with the virus, as well as ongoing expansion of programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), which accounts for more than 90% of new infections in children.
In the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, the global health community is together reaching more than half of pregnant women (53%) in need of PMTCT services with antiretroviral drugs. The fact that only 15% of women had access to PMTCT drugs just five years ago shows the clear results of global commitments to scale-up this prevention method, which has been proven to dramatically reduce new infant HIV infections.
The report also shows a dramatic increase in the number of children receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART), with a 29% increase from the previous year. Yet in many countries, children still lag far behind adults in access to treatment – less than a third of children in need of treatment are receiving it, and only a small fraction of HIV-exposed infants are being tested soon after birth. We clearly know that early diagnosis of HIV infection and rapid initiation of treatment are vital to saving young lives – and without treatment, approximately half of infected children will die before the age of two.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation works closely with many governments in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest hit by this disease, and we have seen the critical importance of national political commitments in fighting the pandemic. As more countries implement new WHO guidelines for prevention and treatment – such as shifting away from single-dose nevirapine to more efficacious HIV prophylaxis regimens, and starting effective treatment earlier for pregnant women living with HIV – we will continue to see dramatic progress.
Reaching more mothers and children with high quality HIV prevention and treatment services is also vital to improving overall maternal and child health and survival, two important aspects of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. At a time when governments and global health leaders are rallying behind these common goals, this progress report shows that we are on the right path – but without sustained political and financial commitments, we are putting progress at risk.
We welcome the report, and look forward to continuing to work together with WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, and other partners to realize the virtual elimination of pediatric AIDS worldwide. We cannot afford to slow our progress or lose momentum toward this achievable goal.
About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
The Foundation is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV and AIDS, and has reached nearly 10 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It works at 5,000 sites in 17 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment; to further advance innovative research; and to execute strategic and targeted global advocacy activities to bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide.