Health workers from across the world have accused governments and United Nations agencies of failing to meet their commitment to reduce HIV infection in newborn babies.
In a meeting at the UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday, members of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition and the AIDS-Free World organization, said little had been done to improve the delivery of drugs that prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their unborn children. Their assessment was based on a study of six countries - including Uganda - that was conducted late last year.
The summary of the study report sent to the media in Kampala indicates that in Uganda many HIV-positive mothers are forced by stigma, poverty and cultural pressures to practice risky mixed-feeding of children. It says this exposes the immune systems of children, making them susceptible to HIV infection from their mothers.
Additionally, man pregnant women in Uganda, are still not tested for HIV and have no access to information about the prevention of the virus that causes AIDS.
After yesterday's meeting, Michel Sidibe the Executive Director of UNAIDS, issued a media statement in which he committed to ensuring that the rhetoric to place women at the center of the AIDS response will be matched by specific programs and increased budgets.
The most recent data, taken from a 2004 to 2005 survey, indicates a national HIV prevalence rate among women of reproductive age of 6.5 percent. The Ministry of Health estimates that without any intervention, about 30 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy, labor and delivery or through breast milk.
It is therefore believed that there will be about 27,300 HIV infections among newborns this year.
The study by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition found that nearly 95 percent of pregnant women attend antenatal care services at least once during their pregnancy. However they do not necessarily have access to comprehensive prevention of HIV transmission services because less than half of all health facilities have a prevention of mother-to-child programs.