Foreign Policy Blogs

World AIDS Day: Infections in Newborns Decreases by Two-Thirds

Children walk with activists in a torch light rally ahead of World AIDS Day in Kolkata, India, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

Communities around the globe united over the weekend to spread awareness for World AIDS Day, which was held on Saturday, December 1st.  In 1988, the U.N. General Assembly expressed deep concern over the pandemic proportions of the AIDS virus. Following the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of 1 December 1988 as World AIDS Day, the General Assembly drafted resolution 43/15.

According to the 2012 World AIDS Day Report, entitled “Results 2012”, the fight against HIV/AIDS is accelerating.  The report states that “there were more than 700 000 fewer new HIV infections globally in 2011 than in 2001. Africa has cut AIDS-related deaths by one third in the past six years”.  The report also highlights a global decrease in infection rates for young people across the globe.

Last year the United Nations launched the “Getting to Zero” campaign was launched, which runs until 2015 and focuses on achieving the goal of “Zero AIDS Related Deaths.” The campaign highlights the progress in gaining greater access to treatment for all and a call for governments to act now. A demand they honor promises like the Abuja declaration and that African Governments at very least hit agreed targets for domestic spending on health and HIV in support of the human right to the best attainable level of health care for all. It’s a global campaign that spotlights how our fundamental right to health is intrinsically and inextricably linked to other basic rights.

10 goals for 2015

  1. Sexual transmission of HIV reduced by half, including among young people, men who have sex with men and  transmission in the context of sex work;
  2. Vertical transmission of HIV eliminated and  AIDS-related maternal deaths reduced by half;
  3. All new HIV infections prevented among people who use drugs;
  4. Universal access to antiretroviral therapy for people  living with HIV who are eligible for treatment;
  5. TB  deaths among people living with HIV reduced by  half;
  6. All  people living with HIV and households affected by HIV are addressed in  all national social protection strategies and have access to essential  care and support;
  7. Countries with punitive laws and practices around HIV transmission, sex work, drug use or homosexuality that block effective  responses reduced by half;
  8. HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence  eliminated in half of the countries that have such  restrictions;
  9. HIV-specific needs of women and girls are addressed in  at least half of all national HIV  responses;
  10. Zero  tolerance for gender-based violence;

*Goals list courtesy UNAIDS

While the goals set remain clear, what is not apparent is the sustainable political will to achieve these global goals.  Unfortunately, children suffer disproportionately from HIV/AIDS as they are not only unwittingly infected, and they are also losing their parents in varying numbers in many parts of the developing world.  However, while we are still coming up short, we are seeing progress as the number of new HIV infections in children dropped by 43% from 2003 to 2011 in the last two years alone the rates declined by 24%.  The largest decline in HIV infections — two-thirds between 2009 and 2011 — was among newborns. This huge leap has been largely accelerated thanks to the increase in providing women living with HIV access to services. This decline is largely in thanks to the increased implementation of the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015. Women who are HIV positive and receive antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding reduce the risk of HIV transmission to less than 5%.

Can we keep these promises in 2015?  As we head into the final stretch of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, much remains to be done to reach our targets.   One such target being the goal to end HIV infection to children to zero — a goal that weighs on the minds of many.  Additionally, 7 million people in need of treatment for HIV/AIDS remain without access to care.  While we may not be currently winning the battle against HIV/AIDS, hope does shine on the horizon; however, it will take political will and funding to be truly committed and put into place with great speed and fever to see  “zero” in the next three years.



Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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