WHO, UNICEF focus on mother-to-child HIV spread

March 5, 2008

The prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and expanded pediatric care for HIV-positive children must be scaled up. That's the message from a meeting about global AIDS policy...

The prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV and expanded pediatric care for HIV-positive children must be scaled up. That's the message from a meeting about global AIDS policy.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation all called on countries to step up PMTCT efforts, and bring more treatment to children with HIV. The organizations met at the Expanded Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) meeting in Washington, D.C.

Representatives from 20 IATT partner agencies around the world produced an action plan that identified the critical next steps to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic in women and children. The health organizations stressed the need to use the financial resources of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is awaiting government reauthorization.

Widespread PMTCT services have reduced the number of HIV-positive infants to less than 2% in high-income countries. However, 90% of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries do not receive the medication necessary for PMTCT. As a result, more than 1,100 children acquire HIV every day, with 50% of untreated children dying by age 2. Although children represent nearly 17% of all new infections, only 11% of children who need antiretroviral treatment receive it.