, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 11 – The United Nations has called for rapid implementation of programmes that would eliminate mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the next five years in time to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said on Monday that this could be done through interventions like prevention of HIV infection among women of childbearing age and preventing unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV/AIDS.
“In our Continent we still have 400,000 babies born every year with HIV and we know if we are capable of making sure that testing will become available universally to all our pregnant women, (and) that pregnant women also have access to treatment, we will prevent the transmission,” Mr Sidibe said.
He said 38,000 cases of MTCT were reported in Kenya annually and 16,000 could be averted if a full package of interventions to prevent the transmission was provided for by 2015.
Speaking after visiting one of the Millenium villages in Western Kenya, Mr Sidibe said the project demonstrated that there was a chance to increase the number of expectant mothers having access to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMCT) services by promoting community participation.
Millenium villages are a project by the United Nations and The Earth Institute of Columbia to provide new approaches to fight poverty in rural areas.
“I was impressed by people using SMS (short message service) in the village. The community health workers would identify someone who is lacking treatment and communicate to the health facilities that the gap is there,” he said.
“We need to tap on non-conventional capacity. We have a people who have skills, knowledge, people who can expand our delivery systems and able to make sure that the interface between the service provider and community can work by use of technology,” he added.
Mr Sidibe said Western countries like France had almost eliminated Mother to Child Transmission of HIV. He said in 2007, only four cases of HIV transmission from mother to child were reported in France.
“It is not expensive to do this. Just make sure testing and treatment is accessible universally to all pregnant women. What is lacking is global solidarity to ensure resources mobilised are directed to make virtual elimination of MTCT the major agenda,” he said.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General said there was need to scale up interventions that were already working to ensure a decisive end of MTCT of HIV by 2015.
“We will have a meeting at the United Nations in September where with the world’s agreement we hope to scale up the specific measures that can lead to breakthroughs,” Professor Sachs said.
He said there was also need for broader control of the epidemic by 2015.