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The US organisation which works to reduce the number of babies born with HIV/AIDS is celebrating the birth of the one millionth HIV-free baby since it was launched, 10 years ago.
The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) celebrated the milestone at the US Embassy.
When it began work, the likelihood of a mother transmitting the virus to her baby was 35 per cent. With the advent of the anti-retroviral drug Nevirapine, the rate fell to 24 per cent.
Even more successful intervention drugs have seen the transmission rate in Ethiopia fall below five per cent.
Deborah von Zinkernagel, the Principal Deputy Global AIDS co-ordinator in the office of the US Global AIDS Co-ordinator, and Dr. Shannon Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs discussed the achievement.
“We now know that getting women onto lifelong Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) as early as possible significantly reduces both the risk that HIV will be passed on to the child, and protects the mother’s own health,” they said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that 13 countries have reached a “tipping point” in their fight against AIDS, “In order for more countries to keep going in the right direction, we still need to reach those who are at the greatest risk of HIV infection. That’s why, last July, the US announced the creation of a new USD 20 million fund to support key populations, people who are too often stigmatised, at risk and neglected. And that means particularly men who have sex with men; it means people who inject drugs and it means sex workers.”
In his speech, Mr Kerry said that Cambodia, Ghana, Nepal, Senegal, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and two regional programmes will benefit from the funding.
Through PEPFAR, the U.S directly supported more than five million people on ART in the year to September 2012 – a threefold increase from the 1.7 million who benefitted in 2008.
In 2012, PEPFAR programs supported more than 750,000 pregnant women living with HIV with ARV drugs to prevent mother-to-mother transmission. An estimated 230,000 infant infections from HIV were averted in the same year.