Not so long ago, HIV/AIDS was presumed to be a disease that could never be stopped. It hit so hard and so fast that the first crucial moments, when much could have been done, were not taken advantage of. By the time it was recognized as an pandemic too many people had already been infected. And then, the next generation started feeling the effects too, when children became infected via mother-to-child-transmission (MTCT). The hardest hit countries were almost all here in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it was thought that there was absolutely no hope of winning the fight against HIV/AIDS.
As we stand here today and look back, it can be seen that we have come a long way from those dark days of despair. While there is still very much that needs to be done, we can say that just as much has been achieved. The lives of children, the future of mankind, are being saved every single day by the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). A disease as feared as HIV/AIDS is now being brought to its knees by the combinations of HIV testing, counseling, antiretroviral drugs, safer delivery practices, family planning and the use of breast-milk substitutes. 1
Studies show that the number of mothers who take HIV tests has risen by three folds in just four years (2005-2009). A report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS assessed the progress made in 144 low- and middle-income countries, one of which included Ethiopia. It showed that 24 percent of approximately 125 million pregnant women in these countries received an HIV test in 2009, up from 8 percent in 2005.2
The fight against HIV is being done on many fronts. And to aid in this fight, many initiatives have been launched from various governmental and non-governmental organizations. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, The Global Fund and UNICEF are a few examples of the global contribution being made towards winning the fight.3 With the help of these initiatives great progress has been made. Countries like Ethiopia, where a $600 million grant is being used to strengthen maternal and childcare services, have made significant progress in the fight against MTCT after identifying that low antenatal coverage was a hindrance to victory in the PMTCT struggle.4
All in all, the fight against this disease that once seemed almost impossible to overcome, is slowly being won. Day by day, the number of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa being tested for HIV and being granted access to antiretroviral treatment is increasing. Although much remains to be done, many countries have built a strong foundation to stand on, from upon which the fight continues. It will hopefully not be too far a day when we will see an HIV/AIDS-free generation.
- UNAIDS: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/featurestories/2010/may/20100526pmtct/
- Global Issues: http://www.globalissues.org/news/2010/09/28/7092
- AVERT: http://www.avert.org/motherchild.htm