President's Message: June 2011
June 3, 2011
In my last message, I discussed the upcoming budget vote in the United States and our efforts to ensure that critical programs like ours were not on the chopping block, even in difficult economic times. I’m glad to report that while funding for global HIV/AIDS programs were slightly reduced, the cuts were much less than the severe $800 million reductions that were proposed by some in Congress. Legislators realized what we know firsthand: These programs work.
(Photo: Jon Hrusa)
There is significant momentum for these programs — and the promise of the elimination of pediatric AIDS that they bring — at the global level. In May, I took part in the first meeting of the Global Task Team for the elimination of new HIV infections among young children and keeping their mothers alive, an initiative co-chaired by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe and United States Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby. The Global Task Team (GTT) is comprised of leaders from United Nations member states, civil society organizations, women living with HIV, philanthropic organizations, private sector and international organizations--all of whom are committed to eliminating pediatric AIDS. Building on the momentum that exists around elimination, the GTT was formed to identify the barriers toward elimination of mother-to-child transmission; to galvanize strong leadership and commitment at all levels of government; and to marshal greater support for country action on elimination.
(Photo: Jon Hrusa)
Our face-to-face meeting in Johannesburg provided the forum for a robust discussion, allowing country governments to share their stories of progress, chronicle their daily challenges, and offer strong support for elimination of pediatric AIDS, which requires strengthening linkages between PMTCT and maternal and child health services. Together, we formulated the outlines of a global action plan, which is currently being revised and finalized. It will be launched on June 9 at the UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York. Our contributions to this plan and event are appreciated by both UNAIDS and the U.S, Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and we will keep you updated on any follow-up actions we need to take after the June meeting.
It’s clear that while eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV is an ambitious goal, with committed leadership and decisive action, it is possible. And the proof of that possibility is in the work that we do. I’ve just spent several weeks in the field, seeing the success of those programs — and the promise they bring for eliminating pediatric AIDS. First, I was in Swaziland, a country with an extremely high prevalence of HIV, where we marked the great progress we’ve seen in that country. In 2009, 88 percent of pregnant women living with HIV in Swaziland were reached with antiretroviral medicines to prevent the transmission of HIV to their children. This is a remarkable accomplishment, particularly in a country with one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Now the country is ready to continue that momentum with a new project, “Eliminating Pediatric AIDS in Swaziland.” I trust that program will live up to its name and its aims to reach all women, to improve their health, and to reduce missed opportunities to deliver PMTCT services.
(Photo: Bill McCarthy)
I found this palpable drive toward eliminating pediatric AIDS wherever I traveled. Several days after I left Swaziland, I attended the launch of the National Initiative of Elimination of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission in Rwanda. By making PMTCT the cornerstone of its national HIV and AIDS response plan, with a clear commitment to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015, Rwanda has taken an important step toward creating a generation free of HIV. This type of national leadership and dedication is essential toward realizing that important goal. It was a privilege to join Madame Kagame, the First Lady of Rwanda, for a site visit followed by her launch of the initiative. Rwanda likely will be among the first countries on the continent to achieve virtual elimination of pediatric AIDS. This is remarkable progress and an example to us all.
This weekend, we mark 30 years since the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. There’s no doubt that there’s much more work to be done, but we should also mark the progress that’s been made in these three decades — progress that would not be possible without your support. Thank you for all you do.