Ending Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission

Oct 24, 2011 12:32pm
By CARRIE HALPERIN and MANDANA MOFIDI
Every minute a child is born with HIV.  But with proper care and training, mother-to-child transmission is completely preventable.
ABC News’ Robin Roberts visited mothers2mothers (m2m) in Cape Town, South Africa, an organization working to stop HIV transmission by training local women to support and educate HIV pregnant mothers on preventing transmission of the disease to their baby.

“In the United States today maybe in a year 100 babies will be diagnosed with HIV.  In Africa, [it is] a thousand a day,” said Dr. Mitch Besser, co-founder of m2m.

M2M1 202x300 Ending Mother to Child HIV Transmission

m2m’s work is especially important in Africa; 90 percent of HIV-positive babies are born in sub-Saharan Africa and 75 percent of the world’s HIV-positive pregnant women live in 12 African countries.

According to Besser, “the problem in much of Africa is that there are simply not enough health care workers to guide HIV positive women through a safe pregnancy and childbirth.”

m2m currently operates in nine sub-Saharan countries, employing 1,765 mothers living with HIV who work in 714 sites in these countries. The organization has reached 20 percent of the pregnant women living with HIV in the world.

COMING UP WITH A SOLUTION

Dr. Mitch Besser proposed a remarkably simple solution: training local women as mentors  to support and educate HIV pregnant mothers on preventing mother-to-child transmission. These “Mentor Mothers” become professionals as they work alongside doctors and nurses to help fill the gaps in critically understaffed health systems.

“mothers 2 mothers, enrolls every year about 300,000 mothers with HIV – new mothers.  That’s 20% of the HIV infected mothers in the world,” Dr. Mitch Besser told ABC News.

ABC News’ senior health and medical editor and brother of Dr. Mitch Besser stressed the importance of the issue. “We don’t have to have any more babies infected with HIV any longer.”

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO
Significant progress has been made in the past decade in reducing mother-to-child transmission, with infection rates among children born to mothers living with HIV having declined by 26 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to UNAIDS.
Former President Bill Clinton, along with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently launched a global plan that aims to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015. “Countdown to Zero,” as the plan is called, will focus on 22 countries with the highest numbers of pregnant women living with HIV.

“There are still too many babies born with HIV,” Clinton said. “The time has come to end pediatric AIDS worldwide. We know we can do it.”

Take Action! Help keep moms and babies healthy by donating to mothers2mothers.

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