China announces significant progress on ensuring children are born free of HIV
More than 1000 babies were born free of HIV last year alone due to effective interventions provided by the Chinese government, according to a new report released on 17 September. The findings from the Progress report on China National Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B Programme, compiled by the National Health and Family Planning Commission are one of several shared at the 10th Asia-Pacific United Nations Elimination of Parent-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis Task Force meeting in Beijing, China this week.
The progress report found that in 2014, the rate of mother to child transmission of HIV had been reduced from 34.8% in 2004 to 6.1%, and 1,240 pediatric HIV infections were averted due to the interventions provided by the national PMTCT programme. New HIV infections among babies born to women living with HIV have dropped more than 80% in the past decade.
HIV transmission to children can happen during pregnancy, at birth or through breastfeeding. Globally, there is an up to a 45% chance of mothers living with HIV transmitting the virus to their children if untreated. However, that risk drops to just over 1% if antiretroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children. The report found that from 2005 to 2014, the proportion of HIV-positive mothers receiving antiretroviral drugs rose from 64.6% to 82.6%.
In 2010, the China National PMTCT Programme expanded from providing preventive services from one disease to three, and in doing so focus not just on HIV but also on syphilis and Hepatitis B, which can be passed through pregnancy and birth from mother to child.
Senior government representatives and experts from 20 countries are participating in the 10th Asia-Pacific United Nations Elimination of Parent-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Syphilis Task Force meeting, which ended on 17 September.
“From 2015 on, the China government will invest 1.4 billion RMB (220 million USD) annually, to roll out prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B all over the country. China will provide free testing of HIV, syphilis and Hepatitis B for all pregnant women, and free comprehensive intervention service to those infected pregnant women and their newborns.”
Qin Geng, Director-general of Maternal Child Health Department of the National Health and Family Planning Commission
“The Government of China has demonstrated visionary leadership in responding to some of the biggest public health challenges of our times. But we can only protect mothers and their children if we move beyond the public health sector. We will only reach an AIDS-free generation and eliminate the transmission syphilis and other diseases from mother to child if we overcome the stigma and discrimination which women often face. Every woman and every child has the right to life-saving treatment. This is everyone’s business. We need families, communities, health workers and all sectors of society to get involved.”
Dr Catherine Sozi, UNAIDS China Country Director