On Tuesday, we held our monthly Conference Call which was titled: ‘World Aids Day 2010 – Telling the positive stories about aid to international development’. Our guest on the call was Alexander Woollcombe, who is the UK Government Relations Manager at the One Campaign where a part of his job is to ensure that promises made about aid are honoured by the UK. One of the campaigns he is presently working on focuses on ending mother to child HIV transmission by 2015. A recording of the call is now available to download here. If you weren’t able to join us on the call do listen to the recording and take the action.
The areas Alexander spoke about included:
- Highlighting the major successes in the fight against AIDS made possible by international aid
- Illustrating that ending mother to child transmission of HIV is attainable by 2015 and what is needed to make it possible
- Explaining how grassroots can effectively target the media and generate public awareness of the incredible successes in the fight against HIV/AIDS using the stories from the Living Proof Campaign
- The major obstacles which still need to be overcome in order to continue making significant progress.
Alexander told us that less than a decade ago HIV/AIDS was moving unchecked through African communities, leaving a huge amount of death and suffering in its path. Fewer than 50,000 people in Africa were on Antiretroviral Treatment (ART). He pointed out how far we have come in terms of perceptions of being able to combat HIV/AIDS. As an example he described how a decade ago many of those involved in the fight against AIDS, including officials from USAID the American government aid agency, thought it was impossible for African countries to successfully administer ARV programmes because most Africans didn’t have watches and therefore wouldn’t be able to take the drugs at the right time. Today, there are over 4 million Africans on ARVs and an additional million people around the world in other developing countries being treated, comprehensively proving the doubters wrong and bringing hope back to communities that had begun to despair.
He pointed out that this is a massive achievement given the short timeframe, and noted that such breakthroughs in public health usually take much longer than a decade. For HIV then, this has been a major development made possible in large part due to international aid.
Alexander explained that one of the major obstacles 10 years ago was the cost of AIDS drugs which have dropped massively over the last decade, due largely to bulk purchasing and negotiations by international aid organisations such as UNITAID. In addition, the stigma attached to the disease and those who have the disease is declining. New HIV cases are down or stabilized by approximately 25% in 56 countries. New tools are still needed to combat the disease but a lot has been learnt about the disease and how to prevent and treat it more effectively over the past decade. Such progress gives hope for the future as efforts are being made to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV.
We CAN end transmission of HIV from mothers to children
Alexander emphasised that the goal of ending the transmission of HIV from mothers to children is achievable. Currently more than 1000 children are born with HIV every day, and half of all children born with HIV die before the age of 2. However, the medical technology and programmatic knowledge to prevent the transmission already exists and the prospect of ensuring no child is born with HIV by 2015 is achievable.
In order to make this a reality we need to work on the following:
- Scale up the existing tools, particularly ARV treatment and support for safe breastfeeding
- Scale up the resources to fund the mechanisms we need
- Improve testing
- Improve counselling
- Increase access to family planning services
- Increased awareness around the issue of mother to child transmission
- Ensure effective health systems are in place to ensure sustainability of programmes.
If you would like to take action to help fight global poverty this holiday season please read the documents in our December 2010 section on our Monthly action page by clicking here. In addition you can contact our office for further assistance in carrying out your action.