July 16th, 2010

Preventing HIV Transmission in Newborns

From Anu Gupta, M.D., Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson

As I pulled out my suitcase to pack for the upcoming International AIDS Society conference in Vienna, Austria, I was reminded of the last time I used it. A month ago, I had traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Global Health Council Award Dinner. While I had been to the dinner before, this was a very special year because I had nominated mothers2mothers (m2m) for an award and they had won! 

As I sat with m2m founder Dr. Mitch Besser at the VIP table with luminaries in global health, I recalled my last visit to m2m in October 2006 to open a series of new sites in East London, South Africa, where Johnson & Johnson has had a manufacturing facility for more than 75 years. The mentor mothers I met on that trip, their stories, their songs and their struggles have stayed with me. 

It was no surprise to me that when Mitch went to the podium to accept the award, his speech was all about the mothers – the mentor mothers, all HIV-positive, who had recently delivered and gone through the process of taking antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and the pregnant women, also all HIV-positive, whom the mentor mothers were actively empowering through words and by example to have healthy children and live healthier lives. Joining the hundreds of guests in a standing ovation, I felt so grateful and honored to call Mitch and mothers2mothers our partner and friend. You can learn more about our work with m2m here.

This coming week, thousands will gather at the International AIDS Society meeting in Vienna to discuss the state of AIDS in 2010 and the future of the epidemic, from financing, to new prevention modalities and treatment aspirations. One topic that will take center stage is the global desire and commitment to eliminate pediatric AIDS by 2015 by preventing transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child and ensuring that mother is linked to health care for herself. We want to go from 1,000+ new infections in babies a day to 0. It is a goal that is within our reach. Everyone from Annie Lennox to Carla Bruni Sarkozy (Born HIV Free) will be there to figure out how to accomplish it.

Johnson & Johnson will also be front and center, convening with partners UNAIDS, Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA), and Global Business Coalition (GBC). This candid conversation with 20 funders – both private philanthropists and corporate donors – will explore under-resourced initiatives and innovative approaches to reach scale and achieve the dream of a world where no child is born with HIV and every mother has access to medication for her own health. Stay tuned for updates on the meeting.


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