Members of Congress Join Foundation, m2m, and Mothers Worldwide in Fight to End Pediatric AIDS
Co-Chairs of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus– Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) – were joined by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Deborah von Zinkernagel the Principal Deputy Global AIDS Coordinator for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
The event highlighted the voice of one courageous mother – Tlalane Phafudi - who traveled from Lesotho in southern Africa to bring her message of thanks to the U.S. Tlalane is a mentor mother with m2m, counseling other mothers living with HIV about prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).
“I am a living example of how AIDS is not a death sentence,” she said. “Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is possible,” she added, and “we can’t slow down the momentum.”
U.S. leadership and programs like PEPFAR have dramatically increased HIV/AIDS services in sub-Saharan Africa and have saved millions of lives. But currently, only about half of HIV-positive, pregnant women have access to PMTCT services, and 1,000 children are needlessly infected with HIV every day.
Members of Congress encouraged their colleagues to sign the House resolution and reaffirm U.S. leadership in efforts to achieve an HIV-free generation as the 2012 International AIDS conference in D.C. approaches.
Rep. Franks focused on the need for swift action to end HIV/AIDS. “Knowing that it has destroyed countless human lives, we have a responsibility to fight this devastating epidemic. And an opportunity to do so is before us now.” Rep. Lee continued the emphasis on action: “We can end the HIV epidemic, but we must take immediate and decisive action.” She said that we have the opportunity to give “the best Mother’s Day gift ever: healthier babies.” Rep. McDermott added in his remarks that this was no time to cut back on PEPFAR or the Global Fund, saying “we can’t cut back the effort or the money now.”
Deborah von Zinkernagel concluded: “It is a gift to mothers to have a child that is born healthy.” She declared that, “PMTCT is a top priority for PEPFAR,” and cited the nearly 10 million pregnant women that were tested and counseled in 2011 alone, leading to 200,000 new HIV infections in children being averted through PMTCT.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on the Hill.
Jane Coaston is the Foundation’s Media Relations Coordinator in Washington, D.C.