US unveils road map to AIDS-free generation

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled Thursday an ambitious US blueprint on how to realize the vision of an AIDS-free generation, aiming to see virtually no babies born with HIV by 2015.

"Scientific advances and their successful implementation have brought the world to a tipping point in the fight against AIDS," the 54-page document says.

Calling AIDS "one of the most complex global health issues in modern history," Clinton wrote in the foreword that challenges still exist, pointing to the 1.7 million people who die every year from AIDS-related illnesses.

But she stressed that, unlike a decade ago, developing AIDS after becoming infected with HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, and major advances have been made in treatment and prevention.

Antiretroviral drugs have been hugely successful in cutting the rate of HIV transmission from pregnant women to their unborn babies or via breast-feeding, as well as in helping HIV-positive patients from developing AIDS.

In the vision of an AIDS-free generation, almost no child is born with the virus, as they grow up they are at lower risk of becoming infected, and if they do get HIV they have access to treatment to halt its progression towards AIDS.

US Global AIDS coordinator Eric Goosby told AFP that the 390,000 children currently born every year with HIV primarily lived in about 22 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Taking a cocktail of three antiretroviral drugs cut the risk of a mother transmitting HIV to her baby to less than two percent, he said. It also allowed her to breast-feed and protected her in future pregnancies in countries where many women had between five to seven children.

"The idea is to strengthen our ability to identify and retain HIV-positive women at the earliest stages, initiating a three-drug antiretroviral therapy," he said.

"Now we will not get to zero," Goosby warned, saying many women in developing countries never enter prenatal care. There are also women such as sex workers or drug users "whose lifestyles are so chaotic that they only come in and out of care at extreme moments."

But he hoped by 2015 that the numbers of babies born with HIV would drop globally below 40,000, adding some countries were already further along towards achieving the goal than others.

New HIV infections among children and adults around the world have fallen by 19 percent over the past decade, and AIDS-related deaths by 26 percent since a peak in 2005.

 

 

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