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At Uzbekistan conference, Central Asia unites against mother-to-child HIV transmission

© UNICEF/2008
Participants gather for the close of the HIV/AIDS prevention conference in Uzbekistan.

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 16 July 2008 – Central Asia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is on the rise. Major outbreaks among children have occurred recently in hospitals across the region, mainly in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. One reason for the outbreaks is the transmission of the virus from mother to child.

At a recent conference in Tashkent, delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan came together to work on achieving comprehensive prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (also known as PMTCT) and tp support paediatric HIV/AIDS care. The conference was organized by UNICEF and hosted by Uzbekistan’s Minister of Health, Firuz Nazirov.

The Chief of UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS Section, Jimmy Kolker, also participated, alongside UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Mahboob Shareef and officials from other UN agencies and development organizations. All of the countries and agencies involved in the conference are working to eliminate the vertical transmission of HIV in the region.

The four P’s
Mr. Kolker reminded participants of “the four P’s” that comprise the basis of the campaign against AIDS: prevention of mother-to-child transmission; paediatric treatment; prevention of infection in adolescents and youth; and protection of HIV-positive children.

© UNICEF/2008
Uzbekistan’s Deputy Health Minister, Bahtiyor Niyazmatov, UNICEF HIV/AIDS and Youth Programme Officer Komiljon Akhmedov and the Chief of UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS Section, Jimmy Kolker, discuss the issue of protecting young mothers and their children from HIV.

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of today’s event,” said Anna Tereshkina, a leader of the support group for people living with HIV/AIDS in the Ferghana region of Uzbekistan.  “Through discussing the issues related to HIV-positive people, we show them that we value their fates and lives.”

The Tashkent meeting reflected the Central Asian republics’ increasing commitment to strengthening their response to PMTCT and paediatric AIDS – and highlighted improvements in access to treatment, care and support for children living with HIV.

Challenges remain
Participants agreed that sharing their experiences would be highly beneficial in accelerating PMTCT and treatment for paediatric HIV/AIDS. In addition, they reaffirmed the need to strengthen these processes with partners and across borders.

© UNICEF/2008
Minister of Health Firuz Nazirov and UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Mahboob Shareef welcome participants to the AIDS prevention meeting.

However, many challenges remain. There are still issues regarding the programmes’ expansion from pilot areas to nations as a whole. Also, the distribution of anti-retroviral drugs for children and pregnant women still requires urgent attention and action from national governments.

“Europe and Central Asia could be the first regions to eliminate mother-to-child transmission,” said Mr. Kolker. “But to achieve this, we need to reach the most at-risk women with PMTCT and other services, and to reinforce health-care systems as a base to support children with HIV/AIDS and their families.”



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