World AIDS Day 2010: A Message from Foundation President and CEO Charles Lyons
(Photo: Kris Meng)
December 1 is World AIDS Day, a time when the world takes a moment to step back and assess the state of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. And there is some positive news to report. According to the 2010 Global AIDS Report issued by UNAIDS, in the last five years the number of children infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission of the virus has fallen by close to one quarter. That means that we’re reaching more women with the services—including counseling, testing, and interventions to help prevent transmission of the virus—they need to give birth to healthy, HIV-negative babies, babies that can remain HIV-free as they grow older. Scaling up and increasing access to PMTCT services in countries where they are needed most—an effort undertaken by national governments, communities, and organizations like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and its partners—has clearly had a positive effect toward our ultimate goal of eliminating pediatric AIDS.
I’m proud that the Foundation has played a significant role in reaching women around the world. In 2009 alone, Foundation-supported programs provided PMTCT services to nearly 2.5 million pregnant women worldwide, with a cumulative reach of 10 million women since our international programs began a decade ago. Together with local governments and our partners on the ground, we’ve provided PMTCT services to those who need them. But it’s not nearly enough.
The fact remains that in 2009, 370,000 children were infected with HIV—that’s more than 1,000 every single day. According to UNICEF’s recent report, “Children and AIDS,” 53 percent of women now receive medicines to help prevent transmission of HIV to their babies; however, only one-third of infants born to HIV-infected mothers receive antiretrovirals to prevent HIV transmission, a number up only slightly from 2008.
But what’s different this World AIDS Day is the momentum that exists to eliminate pediatric AIDS—a momentum that has galvanized the Foundation to join with partners, including UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Global Fund, and PEPFAR, among others—to prioritize PMTCT as the most available and achievable way to change the face of the AIDS pandemic. From AIDS 2010 in Vienna this summer to the Millennium Development Goals Summit earlier this fall, PMTCT and the possibility of eliminating pediatric AIDS were highlighted as critical to improving maternal and child health, increasing child survival rates, and strengthening health systems worldwide.
On this World AIDS Day, we must continue to make elimination a priority—and do more to reach the women, children, and families who most need help. And with your support—on this World AIDS Day and every day—we can. We have the science. We have the momentum. The time to eliminate pediatric AIDS is now.