WHO / USAID Panel: Equal access to AIDS treatment for HIV positive mothers and their children

13 July 2004, Bangkok -- XV International AIDS Conference participants called for equal access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV positive mothers and their children at a USAID / WHO panel discussion on Tuesday, 13 July.

The panel, entitled 'Mothers and their children in a future with HIV/AIDS: Scaling up PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) Plus’, brought together technical experts, policy makers and AIDS activists from around the world to share their best practices and advocate for increasing PMTCT programmes.

As part of the debate, an evaluation of programmes in Africa showed how provision of ART to women in the late stage of pregnancy had been effective in preventing their children from HIV/AIDS infection, despite ailing public health infrastructure in many countries. Highlighting these and other examples of advances in PMTCT, the panel stressed the importance of communicating such progress to policy makers to ensure necessary political commitment.

Spouse and partner involvement was also underlined as key. "Husbands and partners must be involved in the processes, so that treatment can be provided effectively to mothers and children," said panel member Dr Allan Rosenfield, Dean of Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.

The panel also stressed that, despite progresses in PMTCT programmes, there is still a need to urgently expand service availability. "Without intervention, it is estimated that one third of children born to HIV positive mothers will contract the virus," said WHO's Dr Isabelle de Zoysa, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Director-General of WHO for Family and Community Health.