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HIV Treatment "is at the Very Core" of Maternal and Child Health

Article by George W. Bush Presidential Center May 19, 2010 //   2 minute read

Should we put PEPFAR on a maintenance regime and dedicate new resources to other health priorities?  Not according to Harvard professor Rochelle Walensky, M.D,, whom the Boston Globe calls the “the go-to person on HIV testing in this country.   At a Washington conference yesterday she exploded the fallacy that there is an either/or relationship between PEPFAR and other health priorities in Africa such as maternal and child health. Deirdre Shesgreen of the Center for Global Health Policy reported her remarks in Science Speaks: “Dr. Walensky said ‘detection and treatment of HIV is at the very core’ of child and maternal health and there ‘should be nothing contentious about these synergistic health goals.’ Access to HIV treatment means prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, so babies are born HIV free. It also allows for safe breastfeeding, which in turn reduces the likelihood of childhood diarrhea, which is associated with contaminated water used in formula feeding. And, she said, ‘it keeps mothers alive,’ preventing orphanhood and their associated ten-fold risk of death.’ Moreover, even if maintaining PEPFAR’s programs at their present inflation-adjusted level would “result in 2.4 millions AIDS-related deaths in South Africa alone over five years. . . .”    What about cost-effectiveness?  Dr. Walensky asserts that routine HIV screening, access to lifesaving drugs in resource-limited settings, and earlier initiative of ART would all save vast amounts of money in the long term and are extremely cost effective.” Read Dierdre’s whole piece here.