New plan launched to reduce number of children with new HIV infections to zero

09:15, June 10, 2011      

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Partners from UN agencies and governments, as well as civil society and the private sector gathered here Thursday to launch "Countdown to Zero: Global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive."

"Governments and foundations that support this plan are saying: we treasure all life equally," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, who spoke at the event. "We give all people the best possible chance. We provide health care to all who need it."

This new plan, which was formulated by a Global Task Team of more than 30 governments and 50 international and national organizations, aims to bring the number of new HIV infections in children to zero by the middle of the decade and help their mothers survive.

The launch of Countdown to Zero came on the sidelines of the UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which runs from June 8-10, and has been an opportunity for participants to take stock of gains made in combating the disease and to agree on a declaration that will direct the actions of member states to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS over the next five years.

Ban told the audience at the launch that history has proven that it is possible to make great strides in fighting HIV/AIDS, with the right amount of effort and coordination.

"Let us not forget that some regions have nearly achieved no new infections from mother to child," he said. "If we push hard, as we have committed today, with your continued help and with the will to do what is right for the world, we can spread this success to mothers everywhere."

According to the Joint UN Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the rate of HIV/AIDS transmission from mother to child was been reduced by 26 percent from 2001 to 2009.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who spoke at the launch, said that he believes the time to eliminate HIV/AIDS in children is at hand.

"We are here because we all recognize that the time has finally come to end pediatric AIDS worldwide and we believe we can do it," he said. "We know we have the capacity to produce the medicine, we know that."

Clinton emphasized the fact that HIV/AIDS is often prevalent in less developed countries. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region that has the most HIV/AIDS infected people.

"There are still too many kids who are born HIV-positive," he said. "Just 22 countries account for 90 percent of those pediatric infections."

He said that there are not only moral reasons for wealthier countries to help these nations by investing in their HIV/AIDS responses, but that by doing so they increase their soft power -- influence that utilizes non-coercive measures.

"I think its important in a world where no one wants to look weak and the military justifiably has a claim on all of our budgets, we not forget that what my secretary-of-state often refers to as soft power issues, they have a bigger impact on our long term security," Clinton said. "I think that accounts in no small measure for the presence of leaders of global corporations here at this meeting today, they know this as well."

Collaboration and close coordination of responses to HIV/AIDS, Clinton said, is also essential.

"There are still too many places where HIV and maternal and child health groups work completely separately," he said. "That dramatically reduces the likelihood that mothers are their babies will receive the full range of care. We simply have to all work together, both within governments and all of those who are trying to help to ensure that mothers get the drugs they should and that their babies are born without the virus."

Clinton said that Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, who gave a statement at the launch as well, is an excellent example of the "strong political leadership and personal commitment" necessary to defeat HIV/AIDS and reach to goals set by the Countdown to Zero plan.

In his speech, Jonathan said that Africa is has banded together through the Abuja Declaration, adopted in 2001, which turned attention and resources towards public health problems on the continent, particularly HIV/AIDS.

"That declaration was to make African countries spend at least 15 percent of their budget on their health sector and a reasonable percentage of this would be geared towards HIV prevention and control," he said.

Budgeting shortfalls for fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa must be accounted for, Jonathan said, as African countries must not rely solely on donors to fund their responses.

"I intend to explore in the coming months in collaboration with colleagues in sub-Saharan Africa an effective and creative funding mechanism to ensure ownership and long terms sustainability of the HIV and AIDS response in Africa," he said.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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