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May 11, 10

NEWS / DR Congo will eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission, President tells UN

11 May 2010 – President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has assured top United Nations officials of his resolve to promote the emergence an AIDS-free generation, ensure safer motherhood and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in his own country and beyond.

“These are priorities for the women and children of my country,” he told a joint mission yesterday led by UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid and Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

“I will lead in ensuring an AIDS-free generation in DRC,” he added, pledging to launch a national initiative to reverse the epidemic, and to use his leadership as Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to rally his peers to support this urgent agenda.

Ms. Obaid highlighted the links between women’s health, reproductive health and HIV. “By integrating HIV services for maternal and child health with general sexual and reproductive health, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will reap great benefits for the health system,” she said.

“Mr. President, you have the unique opportunity to restore the health and dignity of mothers, sisters and daughters in DRC and beyond,” Mr. Sidibé said, also stressing the need to take AIDS out of isolation and integrate it with related health services for the most effective outcomes.

Both UN officials called the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015 a concrete, achievable goal. Currently, over 40,000 infants are born with HIV every year in the DRC. Only 2 per cent of pregnant women have access to services to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and only 8 per cent of pregnant women are offered HIV testing and counselling.

The DRC is one of the six countries in the world that together account for 50 per cent of the world’s maternal deaths. Each hour, maternal death takes the lives of about four women.

During their joint mission, the two Executive Directors are also scheduled to meet with other top Government officials, parliamentarians and civil society representatives, including people living with HIV.




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