National Conference in Zambia Highlights Elimination of Pediatric AIDS
December 16, 2010
Last month, I spoke at a national pediatric conference hosted by the Zambia Paediatric Association (ZPA) in the capital of Lusaka to highlight the need to eliminate HIV and AIDS in children nationwide.
The conference was organized and attended by key partners – including the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Zambia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UNICEF, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), UNICEF, and others. Health professionals from every province in the country also attended to address issues particular to pediatric medical care.
I was proud to be part of the Foundation presence at the conference, to ensure that the challenges and successes of preventing HIV infections in infants and treating children living with HIV/ AIDS were included in the conversation.
The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, Dr. Peter Mwaba, opened the conference and presented us with our mission: “We should aim at reduction of child mortality to zero percent.” Of course, HIV continues to be a leading contributor to child mortality around the world.
Professor M. Shilalukey Ngoma, a neonatologist at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, followed with the keynote address, and spoke about one of the challenges that affects the Foundation’s mission of reaching pregnant mothers and infants with HIV prevention: 60% of babies in Zambia are born in the community away from health care facilities.
On behalf of the Foundation’s Country Director Susan Strasser, who was in Washington, D.C. being inducted into the prestigious American Academy of Nursing
, I gave a speech that discussed this and other challenges, and the key elements needed to achieve the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Zambia. This included:
- Expanding women’s access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV services.
- Building national momentum in Zambia for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission, including at the local level in districts, villages, and communities.
- Urging national leaders in Zambia to make PMTCT a priority in the national response to HIV, and setting ambitious national goals around elimination of pediatric HIV and AIDS.
We also showed the Foundation’s video
, which documented how Elizabeth Glaser’s own quest to save her children from HIV contributed to the virtual elimination of pediatric AIDS in the U.S., and to the Foundation’s current efforts in Zambia and many other countries battling the pandemic.
Later, one woman doctor came up to me with tears in her eyes. “I knew about EGPAF,” she said, “but I didn’t know that it was formed like this.”
It was proof that the message about creating a generation free of HIV has a receptive audience here in Zambia, and throughout the world.
Veronica Tembo is a nurse trainer for the Foundation, based in Zambia.