NEW DELHI, India, 6 September 2009 - According to a new joint report from UNICEF,WHO and UNAIDS, the world is now closer than ever to its goal of the virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV and a step closer to realising an AIDS-free generation.
Some of the most dramatic advances noted in the 2009 “Towards Universal Access” report occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hardest-hit by the HIV epidemic. Universal access means HIV treatment, care and prevention for all, but many women and children living with the virus are still not receiving the treatment and services they need.
Key points on the status of the epidemic among women and children in India from the 2009 report, “Towards Universal Access: Scaling Up Priority HIV/AIDS Interventions in the Health Sector”:
• Some of the most dramatic progress is in the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV, known as PPTCT. The number of pregnant women receiving HIV testing and counseling is increasing. The 2008 figure for pregnant women who were tested for the virus is 16%, up from 14% in 2007.
• About 10,673 HIV positive pregnant women received antiretroviral drugs to prevent parent-to-child transmission in 2008 compared to 8,816 in 2007. It is estimated that 49,000 pregnant women living with HIV need antiretroviral for preventing parent-to-child-transmission. In the East, South and South-East Asia region, about 25% of HIV-positive pregnant women had access to antiretroviral drugs to prevent parent-to-child transmission in 2008, up from 24% in 2007.
• In 2008, 11,573 pregnant women living with HIV tested for CD4 count to determine whether they needed antiretroviral drugs for their own health. Not all women living with HIV require antiretroviral treatment, but as their infection progresses, their need for treatment increases. Treating mothers is critical to stopping the spread of the disease and halting the tremendous social impact created by their deaths.
• More countries are making a firm commitment to prevent parent-to-child transmission of HIV as an effective strategy against the epidemic. In 2008, 70 low- and middle-income countries developed a national plan to scale up PMTCT services with population based targets – more than double the 2005 figure of 34 countries. In India, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is firmly committed to halt and reverse the epidemic over the next five years by implementing the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) III.
• There has been a 13% increase in health facilities providing antiretroviral therapy to children. In 2008, 197 facilities were providing treatment to children living with HIV, compared to 174 facilities in 2007.
Despite remarkable gains in these and other areas, much work is still needed to reach the global target of universal access by 2010.
• According to the National Family Health Survey 3, almost three-quarter of mothers who gave birth in five years preceding the survey, received antenatal care from a health professional (74%), but according to the Towards Universal Access Report a relatively lower number of pregnant women received HIV testing and counselling (16%). HIV testing and counselling is often referred to as the gateway to HIV prevention, treatment and care services and low uptake is one of the reasons for delayed access to antiretroviral therapy.
. Combination antiretroviral drug regimens are more effective in reducing parent-to-child transmission of HIV than one drug alone. In 2008, about 31% of HIV-positive pregnant women in 97 reporting countries, including India continued to receive single-dose drug regimens, compared to 49% in 2007.
. A gap exists between the number of children born to mothers living with HIV who received antiretrovirals to protect them against the virus, and the babies who moved on to receive two critical services: early infant diagnosis and co-trimoxazole which prevents opportunistic infections. In India, NACO is implementing co-trimoxazole and is introducing early infant diagnosis to provide babies a good chance of surviving childhood and living a long, healthy life.
The report recommends that national health services provide consistent and continuous care for women and children living with HIV. To ensure effective programmes, HIV services should be integrated into existing maternal and child health services in communities and facilities such as hospitals and clinics.
For further information, please contact:
Communication Chief, UNICEF India.
Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Communication Officer (Media), UNICEF India.