Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission, Minute by Minute
Every minute, a young woman becomes newly infected with HIV. That is a staggering and sobering statistic to contemplate, particularly when coupled with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and ultimately achieving an AIDS-free generation.
Globally, HIV is the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age. Young women aged 15-24 are the most vulnerable to HIV infection—making up 22 percent of all new infections, twice as high as the infection rate in young men.
According to UNAIDS, young women’s lower economic and socio-cultural status in many resource-limited countries means they are less able to advocate for safe sex methods or access HIV prevention and treatment services. In addition, women make up two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate adults, putting them at a greater disadvantage for accessing information to protect their health, and the health of their children. And in many countries, customary practices and gender roles prevent women from having a greater say in how health plans can protect them from HIV and other health issues like maternal mortality.
To help keep mothers healthy and children free of HIV, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) works with national governments and other partners to promote policies that help women access HIV and maternal and child health services. EGPAF and its affiliates also work in communities to ensure women and their families have continued access to information and peer support, which helps ensure they return to clinics for lifesaving HIV services and care.
Despite the obstacles that women face in accessing care to keep themselves and their children healthy, we are reaching more women and children every day, and are making significant strides toward the elimination of pediatric HIV/AIDS. Since 2001, EGPAF and its affiliates have provided more than 17 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. And, according to a recent UNAIDS report, new HIV infections among children have decreased by 52 percent since 2001.
Continued momentum toward creating an AIDS-free generation will require sustainable health access for young women and mothers around the world, and EGPAF will continue to help strengthen and build the capacity of national health systems to achieve this goal.
For more information on HIV and its effect on women, check out this infographic.
Michelle Betton is EGPAF’s Associate Communications Officer, based in Washington, D.C.