UNICEF Urges G8 To Recommit To Preventing Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
The United Kingdom office of UNICEF has launched a campaign that calls on the U.K. government to ensure the Group of Eight industrialized nations fulfills its pledge to provide all HIV-positive pregnant women with access to antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, VOA News reports. UNICEF U.K. Ambassador Jemima Khan launched the campaign with the unveiling of a four-minute film called "The Gift." The film follows the story of an HIV-positive woman, named Mathakane Metsing, in Lesotho who gave birth to an HIV-negative infant because she had access to the antiretroviral nevirapine (Maphosa, VOA News, 2/27).
UNICEF also has launched a petition calling on U.K. Chancellor Alistair Darling to ensure that G8 countries commit to provide about 760 million pounds, or about $1.5 billion, for universal access to drugs to prevent MTCT, Metro.co.uk reports. The United Kingdom has pledged to provide 46 million pounds, or about $92 million, to the project by 2010. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, Sir Roger Moore, Khan and other celebrities have joined to support the film and the petition ahead of Mother's Day (Metro.co.uk, 2/26).
UNICEF U.K. Communications Director Angela Travis said, "What we are doing with this launch and with this campaign is to try and keep up the pressure on the G8 leaders to fulfill the commitment made in 2007." Metsing, who works as a peer counselor for the group Mothers to Mothers, said that the major challenges facing women in Lesotho are discrimination, lack of education and limited access to drugs that help MTCT. "I am here today because I don't want to see more babies dying," Metsing said, adding, "I am pleading to world leaders to give the money they promised."
The movie, which is narrated by Paltrow, says, "Almost every minute of every day a baby is born with HIV. World leaders promised to prevent this. We need them to keep their promise and give all babies the chance to be born free of HIV. Tell world leaders to keep their promise" (VOA News, 2/27). Khan said, "All that's needed now is funding and political will. World leaders promised to help, but we are yet to see any concrete action or money." Paltrow added, "I hope that this new short film will raise awareness and funds about this issue and UNICEF will be able to reach every woman with the vital care and medicines they need" (Metro.co.uk, 2/26).
"The Gift" is available online.