Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last week around so many precious babies, but this video from UNICEF moved me to tears.
Here’s the sad news: Of the 2.1 million children living with HIV globally, 90% live in sub-Saharan Africa, and every day, 1,400 infants are infected with HIV by their mothers through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding. More than half of those babies will die before the age of 2 if not treated with drugs. And yet anti-retroviral medications, given at the right time, can prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child and have proven remarkably effective.
The good news is that UNICEF has developed the Mother/Baby Pack as a simple, complete, pre-packaged set of drugs that can be given to expectant mothers by health-care workers during pregnancy. Even in countries where poor women live far from clinics, 77% of women will make at least one prenatal visit – and if mandatory HIV testing takes place, the women can be given the drugs that will prevent her from passing HIV along to her child – and the counseling to ensure that she can follow the program.
UNICEF developed the Mother-Baby Pack based on an idea developed by health workers in Lesotho, a country where 1 in 4 people are infected with HIV. Since 2007, the government and UNICEF have mounted a concerted effort to promote the program, and mother/child transmission rates have dropped dramatically to 11%. The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission program is now offered in virtually all health clinics in Lesotho, and the Mother-Baby pack will be rolled out this year in Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia as well.
Malekena, the beautiful, sad-faced, HIV+ expectant mother in the video, who was counseled by nurses at the clinic and given a package of ARV drugs, is now the proud mother of Mankhube, her miracle baby girl, who is healthy, chubby and HIV-free.
I’m giving $100 today to buy a Mother-Baby Pack (they cost $87.50) so another mother in Africa can experience that same miracle of a healthy baby. You can join me by clicking here.