AIDS Treatment Activists Push UNAIDS and WHO to Meet Commitments to Reduce HIV in Women and Newborns

    UNAIDS Executive Director Calls for Action to Improve Delivery of PMTCT

    GENEVA, May 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a dramatic meeting today at
the UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva, members of the International Treatment
Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and AIDS-Free World met with the leaders and
approximately 100 staff members of UNAIDS and WHO to present ITPC's latest
Missing the Target report, Failing Women, Failing Children: HIV, Vertical
Transmission and Women's Health, which identifies the failure of the
international community in preventing vertical transmission (also known as
prevention of mother-to-child transmission or PMTCT).

    Citing the research from six countries, ITPC and AIDS-Free World made a
strong case that governments and UN agencies have failed to meet their
commitment to reduce HIV infection in newborns.  In the discussion that
followed, almost everyone in the room acknowledged the failure, and Michel
Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS issued a call to action to significantly
improve delivery of prevention of vertical transmission as a critical step on
the road to universal access.  "We welcome the personal commitment made by Mr.
Sidibe to ensure that the rhetoric to place women at the center of the AIDS
response is matched by specific programs and increased budgets. ITPC will
continue to monitor governments and UN agencies as they deliver on the goal of
universal access," said Aditi Sharma, coordinator of the ITPC report.

    Speaking on a media conference call after the meeting, Stephen Lewis,
co-director of AIDS-Free World, who co-authored the report's preface, said,
"There was tremendous excitement when the idea of preventing vertical
transmission was originally put forth, but it has been a matter of some dismay
and bewilderment watching the chronicle of lamentable failure ever since. The
twin principles which prevention of vertical transmission were meant to embody
were universal access on the one hand and gender equality on the other, and
both have been vetoed by what has happened -- by the program itself."

    ITPC's seventh Missing the Target report presents on-the-ground research
conducted by civil society activists in Argentina, Cambodia, Moldova, Morocco,
Uganda and Zimbabwe. The report's researchers highlighted some of the key
findings about the provision of prevention of vertical transmission in each of
their countries.

    "Women alone bear the weight of PMTCT and the result of a possible
positive HIV test," said Othoman Mellouk, from Morocco.

    "Many pregnant women, especially those who live in isolated or poor
communities, visit a clinic for the first time late in their terms, and may
not be tested for HIV or receive information about prevention of vertical
transmission," said Lorena Di Giano, from Argentina.

    "PMTCT is reaching only a handful of Cambodian women and their babies. 
Only about one in ten HIV-positive mothers and their babies receive
antiretroviral drugs to prevent vertical transmission," said Kem Ley, from

    "In Uganda, many HIV-positive mothers are forced by stigma, poverty or
cultural pressures to practice risky mixed-feeding, rather than exclusive
breast-feeding, which is safer for their babies," said Richard Hasunira, from

    "HIV-positive women in Moldova who disclose their status and seek
treatment and care for themselves and their babies often face stigma and
discrimination. They may also face discrimination and violence from their
families," said Liudmila Untura, from Moldova.

    "Many women in Zimbabwe lack the hard currency needed to pay
transportation and hospital costs, so more and more of them are delivering
their babies at home without expert health care and access to prevention of
vertical transmission services," said Caroline Mubaira, from Zimbabwe.

    The report, published by the Treatment Monitoring and Advocacy Project
(TMAP) of ITPC, is based on research conducted in the six countries between
November 2008 and January 2009. The full report is available at: and

    About the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition: The
International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) is a worldwide coalition
of people living with HIV and their supporters and advocates that uses a
community-driven approach to achieve universal access to treatment,
prevention, and all health care services for people living with HIV and those
at-risk. The Treatment Monitoring & Advocacy Project (TMAP) of ITPC publishes
the Missing the Target series that identifies barriers to delivery of AIDS
services and holds national governments and global institutions accountable
for improved efforts. All reports are available at: and


For further information:

For further information: Gregg Gonsalves, +1-203-606-9149,, Aditi Sharma, +91 991-004-6560,, or Kay Marshall, +1-347-249-6375,, all of International Treatment Preparedness Coalition Web

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