Children born to HIV-infected mothers can be HIV-free.

posted by / Monday, 23 November 2015 / Published in BLOGS

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The Joint United Nations Programme HIV/AIDS.

 

 

The Joint United Nations Programme HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has created a beautiful collection of stories and images of women on the African continent. Below we share an introduction to the collection and an excerpt from the collection, a commentary written by First Lady, Madame Tobeka Madiba-Zuma. For the full 65-page collection, visit:

http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/UNAIDS_Faces_of_AIDS_Free_Generation_ESA_en.pdf

 

 

Faces of an AIDS-free generation in eastern and southern Africa 2015

We present here the stories of women in six countries in eastern and southern Africa—Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia—joining them in their journey to motherhood. Their tales demonstrate the courage, tenacity and support that is needed to ensure children remain free from HIV infection and that their mothers stay alive and well. We hope that by reading their stories, you will be inspired to action and that you too will join us in ending the AIDS epidemic among children.

 

 

 

 

COMMENTARY

By Madame Tobeka Madiba-Zuma

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While we celebrate our successes, we must not forget the enormous challenges we still face

 

I am pleased at the inclusion of South Africa in this important project that explores the human face of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in eastern and southern Africa.

 

In South Africa, we have good reason to be proud of our efforts. Mother-to-child HIV transmission rates have dropped dramatically over the last decade. South Africa is close to below 2% transmission of HIV at six weeks and we have the potential to be the first African country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission if we continue to accelerate our efforts.

 

While we celebrate our successes, we must not forget the enormous challenges we still face, not only as a country, but as a region.

 

New HIV infections among young women and girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are far too high. In 2013, UNAIDS estimated that there were 230 000 new infections in young women in this age group across the eastern and southern Africa region. Young women and girls are being left behind by our current HIV response.

 

We therefore urgently need to redouble our HIV prevention efforts for young women and girls. We must not forget that PMTCT is not only prevention of HIV transmission between a mother who is already HIVpositive and her unborn baby. It also encompasses prevention of HIV and unintended pregnancy among young women by encouraging delay of sexual debut and offering a range of contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy and condoms to prevent HIV infection. It means offering a range of care and support to mothers, children and their families so that they do not become lost to follow up.

 

We need to investigate with renewed vigour innovative approaches such as conditional cash transfers that keep girls in school and offer them additional care if they do not have a proper family structure.

 

Let’s explore every avenue at our disposal to find multiple solutions for young women and girls that they find useful and acceptable.

 

We know that HIV cannot be addressed in isolation. Women’s sexual and reproductive health is closely linked and we need to address issues like HIV-positive women’s increased vulnerability to cervical and breast cancer.

 

Ongoing advocacy to put women’s sexual and reproductive health rights high on the political agenda is needed.

 

In 2014, we managed to break the price of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and as a result the vaccine is now available to young women in the public health sector of low- and middle-income countries, including South Africa. We need more of these initiatives to secure the futures of our young women and girls.

 

Koketso and Lorraine from South Africa and the other women from all over the region whose stories feature in this book show that PMTCT does work.

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