AFRICA: First ladies vow to fight mother-to-child HIV/AIDS infection
KIGALI, 17 February (PLUSNEWS) - Five African first ladies and representatives from four other countries have vowed to redouble their efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS on the continent and, in particular, to prevent mother-to-child infections.
"The first ladies emphasised the need for urgent action in scaling up both HIV prevention and care services," a communiqué issued on Monday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, after a two-day conference of the first ladies, said.
The conference, facilitated by UNAIDS, the UN World Health Organization and the UN Children's Fund, ended on Saturday. It was attended by the first ladies of Gabon, Kenya, Rwanda, the Republic of Congo and Senegal. Those from Ghana, Mali, Mauritania and Uganda sent representatives.
The first ladies and officials of two pharmaceutical companies – Abbott Laboratories and Boehringer-Ingelheim – agreed to increase cooperation in expanding access to prevention-of-mother-to-child-treatment (PMTCT) services for greater numbers of HIV positive mothers and their children.
According to the communiqué, the first ladies and the two companies agreed to expand the uptake of Abbott’s 'Determine HIV Test' and Boehringer-Ingelheim’s 'Viramune' donation programmes in their countries.
"In response to concerns raised by the first ladies about the sustainability of the PMTCT donation programme after 2005, the companies informed them that they will continue the donation programme indefinitely, until a better medical intervention may be developed," the communiqué read.
Moreover, the two pharmaceutical companies agreed to increase services in the countries in need of the PMTCT donation programmes.
The companies also agreed to provide information and the cooperation required to support the first ladies develop public information campaigns in their countries about HIV care including anti-retroviral treatment services, PMTCT services and the Abbott and Boehringer-Ingelheim PMTCT donation programmes.
"A number of anti-retroviral regimens are available to prevent HIV positive mothers from passing the virus to their newborn children," the communiqué said. "The selection of these drug regimens should be made at the national level, based on national assessments of efficacy, safety, drug resistance, feasibility and acceptability."
The meeting between the first ladies and the pharmaceutical companies was part of the strategic planning of the Kigali conference whose theme was "A Mother's Face in the Fight against AIDS".