Ministers and partners review progress of “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free”

24 May 2017 – Ministers from 10 countries and representatives from partner organizations gathered at a ministerial progress review meeting for the “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free”, or “3 frees”, framework, co-chaired by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Smiling children writing on a paper and looking at the camera.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Seventieth World Health Assembly, and is being sponsored by Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland. It reviewed progress towards achieving the global targets related to the "3 frees" framework, including challenges affecting implementation, such as the rapid adoption and roll-out of paediatric treatment tools, and opportunities for accelerated action.

The meeting was chaired by the UNAIDS Executive Director, Mr Michel Sidibé, and the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Dr Deborah L. Birx. It was attended by high-level delegates of the World Health Assembly, including the First Lady of Namibia, representatives of women living with HIV, representatives from key stakeholder organizations, and ministers of health from Belarus and 9 other priority countries: Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

WHO has been a strong partner and the lead normative agency in the “3 frees” framework. WHO’s global normative guidance provides the foundation for interventions and services that need to be implemented in countries across all elements of the “3 frees” framework. This includes guidance on prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, early infant diagnosis and paediatric treatment; comprehensive HIV prevention services for adolescent girls and young women (including pre-exposure prophylaxis) and their male partners (including voluntary medical male circumcision); and quality services for adolescent girls, young women and all adolescents.

WHO Assistant Director-General, Dr Ren Minghui, spoke at the event. “Normative guidelines and implementation tools developed by WHO at the global level play a critical role in supporting countries to plan for and implement effective and sustainable programmes,” he said. “But our work does not end in Geneva. We are strengthening our technical assistance to countries to ensure that WHO guidance is translated into country plans and actions, that quality of services is maximized, and that progress towards the ambitious targets of the 3 work streams is achieved.”

“I can reassure you that WHO is fully committed to implementing the ‘3 frees’ framework at the global level, as the lead technical agency, but also in countries, to support you, your ministries and partners to reach the super-fast targets, and to make an AIDS-free generation a reality in each of your countries,” added Dr Ren.

“Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free”

What is “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free”?

The “3 frees” framework was launched in July 2016 by UNAIDS and PEPFAR. It was inspired by the hugely successful "Global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive”. The framework aims to maintain the progress made in PMTCT in sub-Saharan Africa, but also expand on the scope and geographical reach of the global plan, by adopting a lifecycle approach that links PMTCT to HIV prevention, care and treatment in mothers, children and adolescents.

The “3 frees” framework comprises 3 main streams of work:

  • “Start Free” (prevention of new infections in children and lifelong care and treatment for women living with HIV);
  • “Stay Free” (prevention interventions to keep young women and adolescent girls and their male partners free of HIV); and
  • “AIDS Free” (treatment and care of children and adolescents living with HIV).

These work streams are designed to enable the following targets in countries by 2020:

  • to reduce the number of new paediatric infections to under 20 000, and to start and retain 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women on antiretroviral therapy (ART);
  • to reduce the number of new infections among adolescents girls and young women to under 100 000, and to provide 25 million adolescent boys and young men with voluntary medical male circumcision services; and
  • to timely identify and start 1.4 million children and 1 million adolescents on ART, thus reaching 95% ART coverage among children and adolescents.

WHO joins forces with partners in each of these 3 work streams – leading the development of normative guidelines and implementation tools, and supporting countries to adopt sound policies in each area and turn them into real practices – ultimately, to achieve an AIDS-free generation.