UNAIDS, Millennium Villages join forces to keep children free from HIV in Africa

Agreement signed in New York

Té / 25 September 2009

UNAIDS and the Millennium Villages Project signed an agreement in New York to strengthen efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Africa. The aim of the partnership is to help local governments create “Mother to child transmission-free zones” in 14 ‘Millennium Villages’ across ten African countries. Following a press release from UNAIDS.

The Millennium Villages Project, a partnership between The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, and UNDP, seeks to end poverty by working in rural areas throughout Africa. The new initiative will use the existing infrastructure, human capacity and technical resources in the villages, to help rapidly expand family- and community-centered heath services with focus on stopping new HIV infections among children.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, signed the agreement in the presence of business and African leaders. The ceremony was held under the auspices of President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal.

«Protect mothers and their children»

“I salute this partnership to help protect mothers and their children from HIV. This initiative will mobilize resources and generate political will to save young lives, leading to a generation of African children born free of HIV,” said President Wade.

Also supporting the initiative and participating in the signing event were Dr. Lydia Mungherera, a Ugandan HIV prevention activist representing the organizations HIV+ and TASO; the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms Anne M. Veneman; H.E. the First Lady of Ethiopia, Ms Azeb Mesfin; the Nigerian Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin; and the South African Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi.

Each day 1,200 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV; 90% of these infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Mr. Sidibe, “In all of Western Europe there were fewer than 100 mother-to-child transmissions (MTCT) in 2007, whereas in sub-Saharan Africa, there were more than 370,000.”

The top priorities outlined in the memorandum include measures to ensure that women of child bearing age avoid getting infected, those that are infected avoid unwanted pregnancy; increase access to antenatal care services; HIV testing and counselling to expectant mothers; and expanded access to HIV prevention and treatment services for children.

2 million children under 15 years living with HIV

The agreement will bring together the Millennium Village Project’s multi-sectoral and science-based development and primary healthcare strategy with UNAIDS’ expertise in community and family-centred prevention strategies in order to create ‘MTCT-free zones’, whose progress will be monitored by both entities.

In 2007, there were 2 million children under 15 years living with HIV, up from 1.6 million in 2001 and less than 15% in need of treatment were getting it. In sub-Saharan Africa, only a third of pregnant HIV-positive women received the antiretroviral treatment (ART) to prevent transmitting the infection to their infants, compared with nearly 100% in Western Europe.

Operating in 14 sites in 10 sub-Saharan African countries, the Millennium Villages project has been working with local governments to introduce a model primary health system which will cover approximately 500,000 people.

The Villages work on a model primary health system and include education, nutrition and economic development.

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