During the month of May, IMPACT will be highlighting USAID’s work in Global Health. From May 11-17, we will be featuring the important role of mothers and partnerships in Global Health.
By far, the best Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever seen was given to another child’s mom. It was in Swaziland and I was working in an HIV clinic as a consulting pediatrician. The mom’s name was Nomcebo. What she received was a simple bit of news: “Your baby is not infected with HIV.” She was told that her baby was protected by the HIV medicines she had taken during her pregnancy and during breastfeeding. She was told that her baby was HIV-free because she had come to clinic for her refills, and taken the drugs religiously. The mother’s eyes, wet with tears, were set on the sleeping baby in her arms. She was smiling, and whispering softly, over and over, the words “thank you.” Then she paused, looked up, and said: “Tell them thank you.”
Every day, around 1,000 babies are born with HIV, and there is a growing recognition that we can decrease that number to near zero. In other words, we can virtually eliminate pediatric AIDS. We can give children like Nomcebo’s a healthy start.
USAID, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
(PEPFAR), is working closely with the World Health Organization, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other international
partners to do just that. Through more progressive policies that help
ensure that all pregnant mothers get access to lifelong HIV therapy,
countries throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America are increasing
mothers’ access to once-daily, lifelong antiretroviral drugs that will protect
their babies from infection. Such treatment decreases the risk of HIV
transmission to the child from ~40 percent to less than one percent. These
drugs also protect against the spread of HIV to other adults, as well as
keep mothers healthy so that they can care for their children.
Over a dozen countries are in the process of developing and rolling out universal treatment strategies for pregnant women, and USAID continues to work side-by-side with ministries of health toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation. To further bolster this technical support, USAID recently helped in the creation of an Interagency Task Team implementation toolkit to assist countries as they scale up these strategies.
In Swaziland, when Nomcebo said, “Tell them thank you,” she was looking directly at me. Besides Nomcebo and her baby, there was nobody else in the exam room.
I said that I would.
So…if you are reading this, there is a mother in Swaziland who thanks you. By supporting USAID and PEPFAR, you have helped give Nomcebo (and hundreds of thousands more) one of the best Mother’s Day gifts imaginable.
Follow USAID for Global Health (@USAIDGH) on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation.