A report Thursday accuses UN agencies,
governments and donors of not doing enough to prevent mother-to-child
transmission (PMTC) of HIV, the AIDS virus. The
report, Failing Women, Failing Children,
comes from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC). It's
being issued as the World Health Assembly meets this week in Geneva.
Gonsalves, co-founder of the ITPC, says, "One-point-five million women with HIV
who become pregnant every year don't have access to many of the vital services
for their own health or to prevent mother-to-child transmission. This means
that over 900 new cases of HIV are reported in babies in developing countries
report says these new infections are preventable.
failure to prevent HIV transmission to babies is truly a failure to prevent
disease progression in women living with HIV. If we treat mothers properly, if
we treat women properly for their own health, we would have few or no HIV
infections in babies," he says.
Leading activist lends support
the new report is former UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis, who
isnow co-director of the organization AIDS-Free World.He says the keys to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV
are universal access to medicine and gender equality.
says there's a "shocking double standard between the Global North and the
Global South" when it comes to treatment. It's better in rich nations than in
most poor nations.
the Global North, when you have HIV-positive pregnant women, we use what are
called triple combination (drug) therapies. And the transmission to the infant
is reduced by…98 or 99 percent," he says.
so in developing countries.
the South, we use a single dose application of a particular drug. And the
reduction in transmission is only about 40 percent. Even when you combine it
with another drug, it's about 60 percent. Only 8 percent of all the women in
the developing world have access to the triple combination therapy, which would
virtually elimination transmission," he says.
says the keys to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV are universal
access to medicine and gender equality.
UN agencies criticized
"What is painful…is to see the way in
which the figures are manipulated by the United Nations agencies. There's a
certain misleading component to it because they pretend that 33 percent – fully
a third of all the women who are HIV positive and pregnant – have access to
drug intervention. When in fact all they have access – almost 50 percent of the
– is to this single dose response," he says. Lewis
calls that response "a mockery."
UNAIDS position on PMTC
UNAIDS says health systems "need to be
strengthened" to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. And it calls for
the "timely administration" of a combination of anti-retroviral drugs that is
affordable and offers superior resistance to the aids virus.