SA has made massive gains in preventing mother-to-child HIV and Aids infections‚ but a lot more needs to be done, says Anthony Lake‚ UN Children’s Fund executive director.
The Times reports that Lake‚ was speaking at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban.
Lake said the country should be proud of its growing legacy of lives saved and improved. There is “almost universal HIV testing among pregnant women”‚ and there has been a drop of 80% in new infections among children since 2002. On top of this‚ since 2008‚ the rate of mother-to-child infections had dropped from 8% to 1.5%.
According to the report, he said South Africa’s commitment and progress towards dealing with mother-to-child transmissions was “an inspiring model for other countries travelling the same path. But these achievements are best reflected not in statistics‚ but in the happiest measurement of all: in individual lives. A pregnant woman is now about to be tested for HIV and hoping for a negative result‚ but knowing she’ll receive treatment if the news is bad. A boy born HIV free living a normal and healthy childhood. Or parents watching their daughter grow strong and healthy because she’s getting the treatment that she needs. Everyone involved in this effort in South Africa deserves our admiration and applause.”
However‚ he said it was not enough to stop here. “These successes also spur us to finish the job; we cannot forget the lives that are still being left behind. That means finishing the job on mother to child transmission‚ providing high quality HIV treatment to all infected women and maintaining that treatment throughout their lives. It means urgently scaling up HIV testing‚ treatment and services‚ especially for adolescents and the most at risk adolescents‚ girls. Above all‚ it means not giving up the fight we began three decades ago‚” he said in the report.
“Despite our wonderful progress we are still grappling with a disease that needlessly claims hundreds of lives a day – a disease we know how to prevent and how to treat‚” he said.
South Africa’s Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has also stated a wish that, before the end of 2021, South Africa be awarded a special certificate by UNAIDS for totally eliminating mother-to-child HIV infections. “I am painfully aware that four countries have already got their certificates – Cuba‚ Thailand‚ Moldova and Belarus. After they were announced at the high-level UN meeting in June‚ there were whispers in the corridors of power that they expect‚ or wish‚ that on the African continent‚ SA would be the first to achieve that certificate.”
Business Day reports that according to Motsoaledi – who was speaking at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban – a lot of headway has already been made. “We must keep the focus and continue what we’ve been doing across the country. But we must just do it better. What we’ve been doing has reduced mother-to-child transmission from 30% some 10 years ago‚ to the present 1% or 2%‚” he said.
The focus on eliminating it completely would be aimed at the districts where transmissions were most common. “We focus more on the districts with the highest transmissions and burden of paediatric HIV and Aids. From the data in our possession‚ we know that 60% of new HIV infections in children come from only 27% of the districts in the country‚ from 14 of the 52 districts. If we can concentrate there‚ we are already solving 60% of the problems.”