International AIDS Conference 2011 in Rome concluded, attended by medical experts from around the world

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The International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference 2011 was held in Rome last week.  The conference was attended by a large number of medical experts from different parts of the world. Stefano Vella, a research director at the Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS) addressed the conference discussing about the future of Millennium Development Goals, care and prevent of the patients and other issues.

“We are never going to reach the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health as long as nations, international donors and agencies do not step up to the mark,” said Stefano Vella during the conference. “Yes, there have been marked improvements over the past decade but there are still too many women and children needlessly dying. Care, prevention and treatment need to be scaled up in many developing countries and it needs to start happening now. We just cannot afford to take our eyes off the huge gaps that still remain in the roll-out of effective prevention and treatment programs in many countries,” added Vella.

HIV has become the leading cause of death for women around the world, surpassing cancer and heart disease. Due to easier transmission and social factors, women are being infected at an alarming rate.

India, with the third largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS in the world, is one of the countries of concern. Thirty-nine percent of those living with the virus here are women. Without preventative care and treatment, many of these women unknowingly transmit the virus to their children which has accounted for 5.4 percent of new HIV infections in India. Health workers in India promote safe motherhood practices

CEDPA is attempting to bridge the gaps in India with the Integration of HIV and Maternal Health Initiative. Supported by The Maternal Health Task Force and EngenderHealth, CEDPA India is targeting India’s high maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS transmission rates.

The needlessly high maternal and child mortality rates were addressed at the conference. Philippa Musoke of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University in Uganda explained the importance of mother-to-child transmission prevention programs. Research shows that the reductions in maternal and child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia over the last decade are a result of the success of these programs.

With this initiative, CEDPA India is striving to take those results one step further. The integration of maternal health and HIV prevention programs can help save lives by providing education and treatment to each patient in one visit rather than treating each illness in separate visits.

CEDPA is doing preliminary research on global best practices in integrating maternal health and HIV programs successfully. The objective is to provide recommendations for an integrated national and state-level maternal health and HIV prevention program.

Without treatment, 15-30 percent of children born to HIV infected mothers become infected either during pregnancy or delivery. With proper treatment and education, this number can be brought down to zero. Integrating the programs can save lives and the goal of no new HIV infections amongst children by 2015 can be met.

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