AP/International Herald Tribune Examines Progress In Reducing Number of African Infants Born With HIV
The AP/International Herald Tribune on Sunday examined how "after years of despair, Africa is making progress in protecting unborn [infants] from AIDS -- and in prolonging the life of the parents." According to a United Nations report titled "Children and AIDS" and published for World AIDS Day, the number of pregnant women receiving antiretrovirals in low- and middle-income countries has tripled in the past three years. In addition, increased donor interest and funding has made such gains even more impressive in some countries. Outgoing UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, said, "The prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is not only effective, but also a human right. We are seeing good progress in many countries, especially in parts of Africa, but we need to significantly scale up HIV testing and treatment for pregnant women."
The Cape Fertility Clinic in South Africa is the first such facility in Africa to open a laboratory for HIV-positive parents, enabling them to conceive and give birth to HIV-negative infants through procedures such as in vitro fertilization. Approximately five or six couples, with either one or both partners living with HIV/AIDS, visit the clinic every month, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. However, it adds that the clinic "is only for the favored few with enough money to pay for fertility treatment and is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge numbers of infected people."
Klaus Wiswedel, one of the clinic's directors, said, "HIV is no longer seen as a death sentence but a chronic disease. And people with chronic diseases are entitled to have fertility treatment. We can safely deliver an HIV-negative child and, with the right treatment, the parent can live a long life." According to Wiswedel, if the woman is HIV-positive and her husband is not, artificial insemination is used; if the man is HIV-positive, the sperm is cleansed of the virus. Once pregnant, the HIV-positive woman has to be followed by an HIV specialist and gives birth via caesarean section to reduce the chance of mother-to-child transmission (Nullis, AP/International Herald Tribune, 11/30).
The U.N. report is available online (.pdf).
Christian Science Monitor Examines HIV Prevention in Africa
In related news, the Christian Science Monitor on Monday examined a "revolutionary new generation of AIDS prevention campaigns that reflect a growing recognition that condoms aren't enough and that slowing the epidemic will require widespread cultural change." According to the Monitor, the campaigns are "based on new research about the driving forces of the epidemic -- specifically the common practice in many hard-hit African countries of having multiple, long-term sexual partners at the same time." However, the new messages "are also blurring the often-rancorous divide between largely secular advocates of condom-based messages and religious organizations that emphasize abstinence and fidelity," the Monitor reports. According to the Monitor, these efforts are "boosting enthusiasm for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts" (Itano, Christian Science Monitor, 12/1).