She said already the virus had affected thousands of pregnant women and their newborn babies and still continued to spread and affect more women on a daily basis.
Addressing the closing session of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of OAFLA in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the First Lady, Mrs Mahama, made a passionate appeal to the powers that be to help the women and their unborn babies now and avoid another Ebola virus attack which was still fresh in our minds.
The meeting, which brought together more than 12 First Ladies and representatives, partners, donors and technical advisors, was under the theme: “Advancing Sustainable Partnerships to End Paediatric AIDS & Improve Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights.”
Held twice a year in January and June on the margins of the African Union Summit, the meeting enables the First Ladies to come together to take stock, refocus their commitment and collectively seek ways to overcome the challenges, and identify sustainable and scalable action areas.
The First Lady expressed her appreciation to the other First Ladies for their support throughout all the meetings. “I am confident that together, we can make monumental strides during my tenure of office.”
She said in furtherance of OAFLA’s pledge in South Africa for an AIDS-free generation, members should jump into a campaign mode and embark on a year-long intensive intervention in their respective countries in collaboration with the National AIDS councils and commissions, ministries of health and UNAIDS of their respective countries.
Mrs Mahama proposed that the focus should be specifically on the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2017, through awareness raising among populations for systematic HIV testing of all pregnant women, their partners and babies born to HIV positive women.
She also called for advocacy and action for an effective integration of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) into maternal newborn and child health for efficiency, rapid scale-up and sustainability, and added that there was the need to succeed in extending efforts and commitment beyond EMRICH to end Paediatric AIDS by 2020 towards an AIDS-Free generation in Africa.
She proposed that the First Ladies should join efforts to organise a high-level advocacy meeting on Paediatric AIDS within the next few months with ministers of health, gender and education, parliamentarians and partners involved in HIV for a stronger political and donor engagement.
Furthermore, she asked them to mobilise resources within their countries specifically from the private sector to scale up treatment of children.
She said only 75 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV received antiretrovirals for PMTCT in 2014 and only 30 per cent of HIV positive children received treatment while the mother-to-child transmission was no longer an issue in developed countries.
The President of OAFLA said Cuba had already eliminated it and other African countries were on a precipice; she was of the belief that all OAFLA member countries could and should eliminate mother-to-child transmission by the end of 2017.
Sharing the progress, successes and challenges of her country, the First Lady of Kenya, Mrs Margaret Kenyatta, said the journey had not been easy.
Although Kenya had both the evidence and knowledge of the high returns on investment in health, and the positive impact on poverty reduction and stimulus to economic growth, there had not been tremendous progress in the prevention of new infections among children in the country, she stated.