Senior United States Officials, Members of Congress and Partners Recommit to Ending AIDS Among Children, Adolescents and Young Women. 16/9/2016

Published by UNAIDS

UNAIDS and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation hosted a high-level Congressional briefing in the United States Senate to increase momentum around an ambitious Super-Fast-Track framework—Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free. The initiative, which was launched by UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and partners in June 2016, outlines a set of time-bound targets to reach in order to stop new HIV infections among children, prevent new HIV infections among adolescents and young women and ensure access to antiretroviral treatment.

The Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free initiative builds on the progress made under the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan). The Global Plan made a major contribution to a 60% reduction in new HIV infections among children since 2009 in the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa most affected by the epidemic. Speakers highlighted the need to keep up the momentum, warning that complacency could reverse the important gains that have been made.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, brought attention to the need to increase access to treatment for children. He said that despite the treatment scale-up for children, which has grown twofold in the past five years and resulted in a 44% reduction in AIDS-related deaths among children, one in two children living with HIV still does not have access. Without immediate access to treatment, about 50% of children infected at birth will die by age 2.

Senators Edward Markey and Benjamin Cardin, honorary co-hosts of the briefing, and Congressman James Himes referred to the commitment of the American people through PEPFAR, and the important results that have been achieved through the strong partnerships with the countries most affected by the epidemic. Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia, expressed appreciation for the support of PEPFAR and UNAIDS in Namibia, and emphasized the need for continued engagement to address challenges related to HIV prevention, inequality and harmful gender norms. Namibia is a leader in the response to HIV and one of six countries—together with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda—that have reached 90% or more of pregnant women living with HIV with life-saving antiretroviral medicines.

Deborah Birx, United States Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, presented data illustrating dramatic recent achievements in stopping new HIV infections among children, and described evolving epidemic dynamics that demand new approaches so that the next phase of the response is successful in addressing the needs of the largest generation of young people the world has ever seen.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, shared an overview of the science behind each pillar of Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free, showing that the world has the tools required to achieve the targets. Further innovations in treatment and prevention science hold the promise of accelerating the response by making commodities and services easier to access and use, and overall more effective.

Speaking in his capacity as a board member of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, former Senator Christopher Dodd reflected on the bipartisan political commitment behind PEPFAR and the courage demonstrated by a number of elected officials at a time when AIDS was considered to be a difficult and controversial issue. He emphasized that this commitment must be constantly reinforced until the vision of an AIDS-free generation is achieved.

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