South Africa

David Beckham visits ‘Mothers2Mothers’ centre in Cape Town

UNICEF Image
© Per-Anders Pettersson for UNICEF via Getty Images
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham with Tamara, who is living with HIV, and her son Sesiphi, 3, who was born free from HIV due to treatment provided by the UNICEF-supported 'Mothers2Mothers' centre.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, 9 December 2009 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham was in South Africa this week to highlight the global progress that has been made on preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTC) of HIV.

During his busy stay, the football star visited a UNICEF-supported programme in a clinic in Cape Town's Khayelitsha Township, where he met and talked to pregnant young women and new mothers who are living with HIV.

Mothers supporting each other
The UNICEF-supported ‘Mothers2Mothers’ (M2M) programme provides vital education that helps pregnant women and new mothers prevent HIV transmission to their babies. It also gives them the knowledge they need to improve their own health and that of their children.

Mr. Beckham was introduced to the work of the programme by Dr. Mitch Besser, the founder of M2M, who told him about the ground-breaking care and support that the clinic's patients receive.

He also met Tamara, 25, a mother living with HIV, who received treatment at the centre and now supports other young women in similar circumstances. Tamara started her treatment at the clinic when she was five months pregnant. Thanks to the testing, counselling and medication she received there, her son Sesiphi, now three, was born free from HIV.

Tamara said it was important for men to get more involved in supporting their pregnant wives, noting that too few husbands and male partners join their wives at the clinic. “She told me that more men need to support their partners to get the treatment and care they need,” said Mr. Beckham. “I hope that I can do my bit to help promote this message from Tamara, and that men out there hear this and do their bit."

Preventing transmission
Almost every minute of every day, a baby is born with HIV somewhere in the world, passed on by his or her mother during pregnancy or labour and delivery. The great tragedy is that with simple inexpensive treatments, mother-to-child transmission of HIV is almost entirely preventable.

Since the launch of UNICEF's global ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’ campaign in 2005, there has been significant progress in scaling up care and treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

In 2004, just 9 per cent of women in need had access to prevention services, which include HIV testing and counselling for women and their partners; access to anti-retroviral medicine for mother and baby; use of safe birthing practices; and advice on exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months. Today, up to 45 per cent who need care and treatment can get it. 

In South Africa, progress is particularly evident, with 74 per cent of mothers who need treatment now receiving it for themselves and their babies, compared to just 15 per cent in 2004.

"It gives me such hope that in a country like South Africa, where over 5 million people are living with HIV, this inspiring work is being done by UNICEF and their partners to help prevent the virus passing from pregnant mothers to their newborn children,” said Mr. Beckham. “The solution is cheap and it’s simple and can help save the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year. Children have a right to be as healthy as possible, and I can think of no better thing than ensuring babies are born free from HIV."

 

UNICEF Image
© Per-Anders Pettersson for UNICEF via Getty Images
The Mothers2Mothers programme visited by David Beckham in South Africa is providing pregnant women and new mothers with vital education and support that helps to prevent them passing HIV on to their babies.

Ending stigma
Despite progress, South Africa remains the hardest hit country in Africa – in absolute numbers – in terms of people living with HIV/AIDS. In 2009, an estimated 5.2 million South Africans are living with HIV.

In Khayelitsha Township, infection rates are significantly higher than the national average, and socio-economic conditions contribute to the spread of communicable diseases. There is still a barrier to overcome in terms of social stigma against people living with disease, which prevents many women from getting the treatment and care they need to protect themselves and their babies.

"The young women I met today came forward to tell their stories and talk openly to me," Mr. Beckham said at the end of his visit. "I admire and respect them for trying to break the stigma here and hope that others begin to do the same. I hope that my visit ... can send a message to others that stigma around this virus needs to end now."


 

 

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