July 23, 2012
We come together at the 2012 International AIDS Conference with 20,000 colleagues, implementers, activists, ready to listen, and share our experiences of what works. As we gather for this week of meetings, we eagerly await news of scientific advances, global successes, and evidence of best practice and effective response. We also need to keep the fire that moves so many to respond to the HIV and AIDS pandemic burning. On this first day, we have not been disappointed.
After 30 years of responding, we can now look at ‘hyper-endemic’ countries such as Zambia and for the first time say that we have more people being treated than being diagnosed with new infections. And it is possible to say that adhering to treatment could possibly mean living a long life. But we have a new conviction and a new way of looking at treatment – treatment must be viewed as prevention.
Nowhere is this truer than in the case of ending parent to child transmission. The faster we can get a mother on treatment, the sooner we can reduce the risk of ransmission to her baby.
Some compelling facts:
- In 2011, 330,000 children were born with HIV; a decade ago that number was 600,000. Now to prevent mother to child transmission there is “Option B+” which provides full treatment during pregnancy and continues for life. We have an unprecedented opportunity with the new B+ therapy, which is simple and can be started in the antenatal clinic setting, and demonstrates that the best treatment is prevention.
- Under the Global Plan to end pediatric AIDS, a goal has been set for reducing transmission to , and treatment rates of 90% to keep mothers alive. However, as a number of our colleagues have illustrated, preventing mother to child transmission is a cascade of services….but the cascade can be imperfect. We may start off with good antenatal coverage but few receive the continued support they need. At each step ofintervention, we lose more women and their infants, and too few infants are tested soon enough.
There is another missing piece that requires our attention. The majority of youth who are living with HIV do not yet know their HIV status. There has been a lot said about adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and the need to take into account the needs of younger people, who are so often excluded from adult programs including preventing mother to child transmission. We met a young Ugandan woman living with HIV; she gets her Anti RetroviralTreatment and other HIV related services from a clinic for people over 15. She said that since the clinic has opened, people her age feel much more comfortable accessing services. She also expressed her frustration that there is little
representation of the voices of young people living with HIV.
Which is why sharing our exhibition space with our young colleagues from YouthLead is so special. These inspiring individuals will be able to share their experiences living with HIV, their strategies for
addressing the stigma and helping others as peer educators.
More to come tomorrow…