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May 2010: Closing remarks by UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy at the Global Fund meeting

Madam/Sir Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Distinguished participants
Colleagues of the United Nations, the Global Fund and PEPFAR
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very glad to be back with you for the closure of this important meeting and to be able to speak to you again on behalf of the UNAIDS family.

This meeting has been a key step on our way towards the virtual elimination of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV by 2015.

I’m happy to learn that you agreed on bold targets and benchmarks and defined clear priorities for achieving this ambitious goal in the 20 countries which participated in this meeting.

  • Key to the success will be to ensure the availability of an integrated package in line with the four prongs: primary prevention of HIV, family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies, testing, as well as ARVs for prevention and treatment for mothers and infants.

This meeting also identified a number of challenges which we need to address:

  • Looking at the data from countries today, much more attention is needed in large populous countries that are not making enough progress.
  • We also need approaches that improve the uptake and the quality of PMTCT services. I understand you have discussed the importance of delegating tasks to decentralized levels and to less medically-trained workers as well as promoting family-centered care where human resources are limited. These are important steps.
  • We also need to strengthen the integration of maternal and child health services, as well as of PMTCT and HIV treatment to address the health needs of not just HIV positive women  and newborns but also their families and communities.
  • I’m glad to learn that you also discussed the need to strengthen the involvement of men in PMTCT as well as in the whole decision making process around reproductive health. It’s encouraging to see different approaches in countries to get men involved. In South Africa for example, UNICEF and partners are working with Johns Hopkins University on a project called “Brothers for Life” which aims at changing the attitudes and behavior of men. A number of well-known football players participating in the FIFA World Cup including from FC Barcelona have joined the campaign and recorded PSAs appealing to men to behave responsibly. The PSAs will go live in South Africa on 1 June and will then be made available globally. They will also be shown twice during each game.
  • Other countries including Kenya are looking into the reasons why men don’t join their partners during ante-natal care visits and get tested for HIV together with them. One issue mentioned by them are the working hours at health centers, something which can be changed easily.
  • We also need to make better use of new technologies such as SMS to follow up on test results and ARV treatment.

Once again, I would like to thank the Global Fund for calling this important meeting. The agreements reached here will help prepare substantive proposals for the Global Fund round 10 and will also inform the GF re-programming exercise.

We have to make best use of the unprecedented donor commitment and the political momentum. PMTCT is a low hanging fruit which we can’t let slip away. Let’s use this opportunity and translate our scientific evidence into results for children and their families.

 

 
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