Honoring a Hero in the Fight Against Pediatric AIDS

Dr. Lynne Mofenson

On September 13th, Dr. Lynne Mofenson was named Federal Employee of the Year during the Service to America medals award ceremony. Her Career Achievement medal honors her decades of work in pediatric HIV. On behalf of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, we’d like to congratulate Dr. Mofenson on her achievements. In our work to end pediatric AIDS, she’s been a friend, colleague, and a true champion for mothers and children around the world.

Dr. Lynne Mofenson has been fighting for mothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS for over twenty years.

Last week, the chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was named a finalist for a prestigious award to recognize her trailblazing work – the 2012 Service to America Career Achievement Award.

Dr. Lynne Mofenson

Also known as the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals or “Sammies,” they honor outstanding federal employees for service to their communities and for making a difference.

Working at the NIH since 1989, Dr. Mofenson has focused her work on a monumental goal: ending virtually all new HIV infections in children.

To achieve this, she has concentrated on research studies, clinical trials, and policy affecting domestic and international pediatric, adolescent, and maternal HIV/AIDS.

“Lynne has been the preeminent scientific leader in the prevention of AIDS in children in the world,” says Dr. R.J. Simonds, the Foundation’s Vice President of Innovation. “She moved the field along uniquely because of her command of scientific issues.”

Dr. Mofenson was an important contributor to the historic clinical study in 1991 using AZT to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child (PMTCT).

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1994, and the results surprised the world with how successful PMTCT was – reducing the risk of transmission to infants by two-thirds.

Dr. Mofenson took the lead to ensure that PMTCT was rapidly implemented in the U.S., working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and Medicaid to make it happen.

Within just a couple of years, 80% of pregnant, HIV-positive women in the U.S. were receiving AZT to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies, and the number of new pediatric HIV infections in the U.S. plummeted.

Dr. Mofenson kept working to improve PMTCT regimens, and her leadership at NIH eventually helped reduce the risk of transmission from mother to child to less than 2 percent.

Today, fewer than 200 infants in the U.S. are born with HIV each year.

Dr. Mofenson is now a leader in efforts to stop new pediatric HIV infections globally, working on research and policy in Africa and the developing world.

“Despite being one of the busiest women on the planet, Lynne always finds time to provide valuable input for scientific questions that will help us realize our mission of ending pediatric AIDS,” says Dr. Jeffrey Safrit, the Foundation’s Director of Clinical and Basic Research.

And the impact of her work continues to reverberate throughout the HIV/AIDS world.

The technique she helped pioneer for pregnant mothers and their babies twenty years ago has revolutionized current efforts to stop transmission of HIV among adults: using treatment in an HIV-positive individual to lower the risk of transmission to an un-infected partner, and using HIV drugs (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP) in an HIV-negative individual to protect against HIV infection.

“Lynne has long been a personal hero of mine,” says Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and head of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Dr. Mofenson has been a key part of successful U.S. leadership to create an AIDS-free generation around the world.

For helping to make such a monumental goal – the elimination of pediatric AIDS – become an achievable one, she is truly one of our heroes as well.

Jane Coaston is the Foundation’s Media Relations Coordinator in Washington, D.C.