This month marks 1 million HIV-free babies

Published: Thursday, June 20 2013 12:50 p.m. MDT

President Bush visits PEPFAR supported AIDS Clinic in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on World Aids Day. One million HIV-free babies have now been born to HIV-positive mothers, and 13 countries are at an AIDS "tipping point": more people are newly receiving treatment than are newly infected.

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Since the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was created 10 years ago, significant progress has been made in the worldwide fight against HIV, said Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday.

One million HIV-free babies have now been born to HIV-positive mothers, and 13 countries are at an AIDS "tipping point": more people are newly receiving treatment than are newly infected.

"Today a disease that seemed unstoppable in is retreat. Globally, new HIV infections have declined nearly 20 percent over the past decade," said Kerry.

Pediatric intervention is key to stopping the spread of the disease, and strides in treatment for pregnant women have been huge. By developing new medications and extending treatment to all women with the virus, not just the sickest, fewer babies are being born with HIV.

"Over the years, the science has come a long way and the antiretroviral medication (ARV) that we now use are both more effective and less toxic than those used decades ago — allowing us to initiate pregnant women on treatment earlier," wrote Eric Goosby, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, in the Huffington Post. "… We now know that getting women onto lifelong ART as early as possible both significantly reduces the likelihood HIV will be passed on to her child, and protects the mother's own health."

The National Institute of Health reports that in the U.S. and Europe, less than 2 in 100 babies born to HIV-positive mothers are infected with the virus, due to measures such as medication and not breastfeeding.

According to Kerry's remarks, PEPFAR has helped bring HIV testing and counseling to 50 million people and is directly supporting more than 5 million on antiretroviral treatment.

Worldwide, about 34 million people are infected with HIV. The WHO estimates that 35 million people have died from AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.

EMAIL: kbennion@deseretnews.com

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