World AIDS Day 2015: Bringing Hope of an AIDS-Free Future
Florence Ngobeni-Allen, EGPAF Ambassador
In my home country of South Africa, the rate of new HIV infections in children has decreased from 10 percent to less than 3 percent in the last 10 years. Globally, the number of new pediatric HIV infections has decreased by more than 58 percent. This progress has been possible in large part thanks to the work of organizations like EGPAF and our partners to get more women and mothers who are living with HIV on treatment in order to prevent them from passing the virus to their babies.
As 2015 draws to a close, and the world commemorates World AIDS Day, it’s important to reflect upon both the strides that have been made to end AIDS in children, but also to examine the goals that have yet to be achieved.
This year marked several key milestones in the AIDS epidemic—from the groundbreaking announcement that 15 million people living with HIV are now on treatment, to the launch of the new Sustainable Development Goals, (also known as the Global Goals) which focus on sustainability and integration. Efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV are a common thread among these many achievements.
I personally experienced the life changing impact of PMTCT, both as a mother living with HIV, and as a health counselor in South Africa.
In 1996, I found out that I was HIV positive after giving birth to a beautiful daughter, Nomthunzi. She was also infected with HIV. Nomthunzi died 5 months later — when her life ended I felt like mine did too.
But through my pain, I became inspired to help other women like myself. When I first started my work as a peer counselor, there was little hope I could offer to the women in my clinics. In 2005 PMTCT services became widely available for women living with HIV in South Africa – thanks to organizations like EGPAF. For the first time I was able to see hope on the faces of the women I worked with. The joy I experienced when I was able to tell a mother that her baby was HIV-free, inspired me to try again to have a family of my own. This hope became a reality in 2006 when, thanks to PMTCT services, I gave birth to a healthy HIV-free son, Alex. I gave birth to a second HIV son in 2011, Kulani. These children are my joy, my love, my world.
However, many mothers around the world still aren’t able to access the lifesaving health services they need to make sure their babies are born HIV-free. Every day 600 babies are newly infected with HIV—that means that every day, 600 mothers must go through the same pain I went through when Nomthunzi was born.
With enough resources, we can provide women around the world with HIV testing and the treatment they need to ensure that their babies are born HIV-free. Thanks to the lifesaving work of EGPAF, and its partners, we are closer than ever before to creating a world where no child has AIDS—but we still need your support.
For today only, EGPAF’s generous partner, Jewelers for Children will match any donation you make to EGPAF 2 to 1—tripling the impact of your gift. Join us on this World AIDS Day as we continue our efforts to create a future free of HIV and AIDS!