Dr. Elaine Abrams Calls for Elimination of Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission

August 6, 2010

Dr. Elaine Abrams of the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health was a plenary speaker at the XVIII International AIDS Conference held July 18-23, 2010 in Vienna. Dr. Abrams called for action to lower rates of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), which remain unacceptably high in many high HIV prevalence  countries.

Mother-to-Child-Transmission Program in Uganda

Vertical transmission is estimated to be responsible for over 90% of new HIV infections in children. In the absence of intervention, an estimated 25-45% of children born to HIV-infected mothers will acquire HIV.  

Dr. Abrams said that failure to attain more substantial reductions in vertical transmission can be attributed primarily to the difficulties encountered addressing the health needs of pregnant women living with HIV and  integrating HIV care and treatment services within the antenatal care setting.   To achieve a vertical transmission rate of less than 5% by 2015 in high prevalence countries, comprehensive HIV care and antiretroviral therapy  must be integrated into a wider package of essential maternal and child health services.

Abrams recommended wider availability of antiretroviral therapies  for pregnant women either for their own health or for preventive purposes during pregnancy and  post-partum. She recognized the human rights of HIV-positive women and emphasized that programs must embrace the comprehensive, long-term health needs and rights of women, children and families to achieve the greatest impact.

Along with Dr. Abrams, ICAP staff  from Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, and the U.S. presented 18 oral presentations and posters  in addition to moderating or chairing four sessions. 

ICAP co-sponsored a pre-conference meeting entitled "Bridging the Divide: Interdisciplinary Partnerships for HIV and Health Systems Strengthening" in collaboration with  the International AIDS Society and Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and supported by Rockefeller Foundation.   In addition, ICAP’s MTCT-Plus Initiative exhibited videos and photography describing its work in Uganda.

A global leader in HIV/AIDS services, ICAP, led by Mailman School’s Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, supports work with more than 1,200 health care facilities in 15 countries in Africa. More than 962,000 people have received ICAP-supported HIV services, including antiretroviral treatment for more than 480,000 individuals.