Can We Eliminate Pediatric HIV?

Can We Eliminate Pediatric HIV?

We know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. But without intervention nearly 40 percent of mothers with HIV/AIDS in developing countries will transmit the virus to their newborns.

MSH and mothers2mothers (m2m) sponsored House and Senate briefings in September, titled “The Elimination of New HIV Infections in Children by 2015 and Keeping Mothers Alive: A Call to Action,” in response to a June 9 global call for ending pediatric HIV by 2015.

“Who knows where I would be without foreign aid like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” said Nozi Samela, a former m2m Mentor Mother, at the briefings. “Who knows how many women and children will suffer if foreign aid is cut.”

Fourteen Senators and Representatives, including Senators John Boozeman and Richard Blumenthal and Representatives Donald M. Payne, Lois Capps, Trent Franks, Yvette D. Clarke, Karen Bass, Nita Lowey, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, and David Cicilline, attended the events.

Chanell Hasty, Policy & Advocacy Coordinator for MSH, said that the Senators and Representatives not only “showed their support and commitment to the elimination of pediatric HIV/AIDS, but also shared passionate pleas for resources and bipartisanship.”

The briefings also included representatives from the non-profit and corporate sectors and African HIV/AIDS communities. [Watch the Sept. 14 House Briefing (YouTube video)]

“Ensuring that all babies are born HIV-free must be a global priority, and not left to a lottery of geography,” said Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, on DipNote, the Official blog of the U.S. Department of State on June 9. "Children everywhere deserve a healthy start in life. And they deserve a mother, not just to help bring them into the world, but to help raise them and care for them."

MSH has focused on decreasing vertical transmission and morbidity and mortality associated with pediatric HIV/AIDS -- in part by conceptualizing and evaluating innovative methods.

“MSH has pioneered new approaches to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in Malawi -- namely the B+ approach,” said Scott Kellerman, MD, MPH, Global Technical Lead for HIV at MSH.

“With this approach, all HIV-positive pregnant women are offered triple therapy for life regardless of their CD4 count resulting in drastically reduced vertical transmission. The Malawi Ministry of Health is rolling out this approach and MSH will help evaluate it,” said Kellerman.

[Malawi’s Bold PMTCT Stance Protects HIV+ Women Beyond Childbirth]

Erik J. Schouten, MD, HIV Technical Advisor at MSH, and colleagues describe the B+ approach in detail in a Lancet commentary.

"By uniting around our common humanity and our shared responsibility, we can change, not just the course of the epidemic, but the course of history for families and communities around the world,” said Goosby.

Can we, as a global community, ensure that every child is born HIV-free by 2015?

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Rachel Hassinger is the Online Communications Associate at MSH.