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Campaign is launched to reduce number of babies born with HIV

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2780 (Published 25 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2780
  1. Helen Mooney
  1. 1London

    The “political will” of governments worldwide must be harnessed to help eradicate the transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborn babies, experts said last week.

    Diana Gibb, professor of epidemiology and consultant paediatrician at the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, University College London, told the BMJ that the political might of governments around the world, as well as the introduction of routine normalised testing, is needed to reduce the numbers of children who are born with HIV.

    Commenting on a new campaign by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to mobilise the public on the issue of HIV in babies, Professor Gibb, who was instrumental in introducing routine HIV testing in pregnant women in the United Kingdom, said: “When we introduced universal testing in the UK, we carried out an economic analysis which showed that even in a low prevalence area like the UK it is very cost effective. Although testing in pregnant women rose to 45% globally in 2008, there are still nearly 500 000 babies being born each year with HIV.”

    The Global Fund hopes the new “Born HIV Free” campaign will rally public support for its work and achieve a world where no child is born with HIV by 2015. The campaign has been overseen by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Global Fund ambassador for Protecting Women and Children against AIDS.

    The fund, which uses contributions from governments and charitable foundations, is seeking donations of up to $20bn (£14bn; €16bn) over the next three years.

    “It is heartbreaking that over 400 000 babies are born with HIV every year even though we have the medical means and the expertise to prevent this,” said Ms Bruni-Sarkozy. “I hope the campaign will inspire millions of people to support the Global Fund so we can finally put an end to this terrible injustice.”

    Last year executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Michel Sidibé called on governments to virtually eliminate mother to child transmission by 2015. HIV positive mothers can pass on HIV to their babies during pregnancy, labour, or delivery, or by breast feeding. However, the risk of transmission can be significantly reduced if the mothers get access to prevention and treatment services.

    Mother to child transmission has been virtually wiped out in countries such as the UK because pregnant women who test positive for the virus that causes AIDS can be treated with anti-HIV drugs, generally three drug therapy. Other measures, such as delivering the baby by caesarean section, also help stop HIV being transmitted to the child.

    Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund, said: “We can win this battle against AIDS if we get the funding we require. This campaign is intended to encourage people to sign up in support of the Global Fund and to show their leaders that there is strong public support to continue and increase funding for its mission.”

    The US is the biggest donor to the Global Fund. France is the largest European contributor. The UK has pledged or contributed $1.1bn since the fund began in 2002.

    The next round of donations will be confirmed at a meeting in October, chaired by the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

    Notes

    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2780

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