By Roshan Khadivi
NEW YORK, USA, 29 September 2010 – The 2010 edition of a joint annual report by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS, released globally this week, highlights positive developments worldwide showing clearly that universal access to key HIV prevention, treatment and care services is achievable.
|22 September 2010: Ambassador Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, speaks about a comprehensive, high-impact approach to reducing child and maternal mortality rates and mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Watch in RealPlayer|
The report – ‘Towards Universal Access: Scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector’ – also demonstrates progress in preventing mother-to child transmission of HIV, as well as ongoing expansion of prevention programmes. Mother-to-child transmission accounts for more than 90 per cent of new HIV infections in children.
Launched in Washington DC, Nairobi and Geneva, ‘Towards Universal Access’ warns, however, that progress is still uneven across regions and even within countries.
‘An HIV-free generation is possible’
“Extra effort is necessary to reach those pregnant mothers not yet tested or reached. They may be marginalized or socially excluded,” said UNICEF’s Chief of HIV and AIDS, Jimmy Kolker. “In Botswana, for example, which has outstanding coverage, more than half of all new infant HIV infections result from the 6 per cent of pregnant women not reached by ante-natal services.”
|© World Health Organization|
|Jimmy Kolker, Chief of HIV/AIDS at UNICEF, addresses the crowd at the launch of the 'Towards Universal Access' report in Washington, DC.|
He added: “Creating an HIV-free generation is possible. The knowledge and treatment is available, and what is needed now is the increased commitment from the global community; efforts from the host governments to strengthen and scale up existing treatment and care services; and reaching out to affected communities – particularly those living in the poorest and most disadvantaged ones.”
Political commitment needed
The panel at the report’s launch in Washington, DC included El Salvador’s Minister of Health, Dr. Maria Isabel Rodriguez, along with representatives of WHO, UNAIDS and civil society organizations.
Dr. Rodriguez shared a series of success stories highlighting her country’s commitment to providing quality care and services to people living with HIV and AIDS. She stressed that despite the global economic downturn, decreased international support for controlling the epidemic and providing needed HIV/AIDS services is not an option.
|UNICEF Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships Leila Pakkala at the launch of 'Towards Universal Access' in Geneva.|
“This is the time for more political commitment from the governments,” she said.
Gains in access to treatment
Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships Leila Pakkala launched the report on behalf of UNICEF in Geneva.
“When diagnosed and treated early, children born with HIV can lead normal lives,” she said. “And treating children is not difficult. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of children under 15 receiving antiretroviral therapy increased by almost 30 per cent.”
Ms. Pakkala added that 14 countries have now achieved coverage of more than 80 per cent in providing such therapy to children who need it. Among the countries that have made these gains in access to paediatric HIV/AIDS treatment are Brazil, Namibia and Ukraine, which has the highest HIV prevalence in Europe.
Reaching marginalized communities
UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Dr. Elhadj As Sy, represented UNICEF and UNAIDS at the Nairobi launch of ‘Towards Universal Access.’
|© UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office/2010/Li|
|Representatives of UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Kenyan Government and non-governmental organizations, including UNICEF Regional Director Dr. Elhadj As Sy (third from left), attend the launch of 'Towards Universal Access' in Nairobi.|
“The report shows that we have reached very far in improving the quality of life of millions of HIV-infected children and adults in Africa, which is something we did not dare to imagine only a few years ago,” he said.
Dr. As Sy emphasized the urgent need to go the extra mile in order to reach marginalized and excluded children and women. “In order to achieve this, we have to strengthen capacities within the health system,” he said, “but we also need to reach out and bring HIV prevention and treatment to affected families in remote areas and poor urban neighbourhoods.”
Marixie Mercado and Michael Klaus contributed to this report from Geneva and Nairobi.