Central Asian governments to tackle HIV transmission between mothers and babies
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 26 June 2008 – The growing Central Asian epidemic of HIV among women and children and the responses to the recent outbreaks of HIV infections in children as a result of hospital-based HIV transmission are to be discussed by governments, civil society and international partners at a high-level meeting in Uzbekistan.
Central Asia has one of the fastest growing HIV infection rates in the world. Although the recorded number of cases is small compared with southern Africa, more than 80% of Central Asians infected with HIV/AIDS are under the age of 30.
Dr. Feruz Naziorv, Minister of Health of Uzbekistan, said: “This meeting is aimed at preventing HIV transmission and taking the necessary steps to address helping those already infected. Through joint actions on AIDS in the region we are creating a foundation for the complete elimination of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the near future.”
The Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan is hosting this July 1-3 meeting at Hotel Dedeman, in Tashkent. The main theme is ‘achieving comprehensive prevention of mother-to-child transmission and paediatric HIV/AIDS care in Central Asian countries’. Among those attending will be delegates representing the governments of: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Also represented will be UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNODC, WHO, the World Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Centers for Disease Control and the Kazakh Union of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
“It’s time to mobilize all available resources to take meaningful actions for children,” said Mahboob Shareef, UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan. “What we really need now is a scaling up of the most successful interventions to ensure that it doesn’t happen anymore.”
The meeting is taking place as increasing public attention is drawn to pediatric AIDS care in Central Asia. HIV transmission in hospitals owing to unsafe blood supplies and contaminated injection equipment, notably in southern Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, has drawn international media attention.
Experts say progress can be achieved in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in these countries by increasing attention to HIV in maternal and child health services and by developing integrated services rather than vertical services to address the needs of women and children through family-centred approaches. This is vital if countries are to achieve the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission.
The meeting will provide a showcase for ‘best practices’ in the scale-up of pediatric HIV/AIDS care, treatment and support programmes. Another aim is to strengthen the commitment to develop local prevention, treatment, and improved care providers. This will enhance the quality of care.
Another aim of the meeting is to raise awareness of the importance of developing the skills and abilities of local communities, non-governmental organizations and associations of people living with HIV to address the psycho-social, legal care and support needs of families. A major challenge in central Asia is the widespread stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV, including children. Associations of people living with HIV are increasingly speaking out against stigma and discrimination.