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Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation Awarded $15 Million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Prevent Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV

Carrie Hyun
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
Phone: 417.92.045.971 
Email: carrie@pedaids.org

DURBAN, South Africa -- The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation announced today that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $15 million grant directed to its newest global initiative, the "Call to Action Project," to reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission globally. This gift represents the largest single donation in the history of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. It will provide for community mobilization and training of health care workers, HIV counseling and testing, antiretroviral treatment regimens and breast feeding education to prevent the transmission of HIV from a pregnant woman to her newborn.

"Every day more than 1,800 babies are newly infected with HIV -- 1,700 of these infants are born in sub-Saharan Africa," said Paul Glaser, Chairman of the Board of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. "This gift by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides the resources to expand and grow our program to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In collaboration with our local and global partners, we can establish more infrastructure, develop culturally relevant counseling and testing, and accelerate simple, affordable and effective interventions to prevent HIV infection in children."

Working with Dr. Art Ammann of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation launched its "Call to Action Project" in September 1999 to mobilize a worldwide response to the global pediatric AIDS pandemic and take immediate action. In less than a year, the "Call to Action Project" has established eight sites in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Thailand. In the first two years, the goal collectively is to provide counseling and testing to 50,000 mothers, treating 10,000 mother/infant pairs. These initial sites were identified through a worldwide competition and selected by an international panel of doctors dedicated to the prevention of HIV from mother to infant.

"Preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV is a critical part of reining in the AIDS epidemic," said Dr. Gordon Perkin, Executive Director, Global Health Program, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We are pleased to support this comprehensive effort to decrease maternal transmission of HIV at birth."

"There is an ethical imperative to reduce the number of babies infected with HIV," said Dr. Cathy Wilfert, Scientific Director of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. "The first step is to get antiretroviral interventions to mothers in areas most affected, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 40 percent of pregnant women are infected with HIV. Additionally, follow-up results of the Nevaripine 012 trial to be presented at the Durban meeting will demonstrate the sustained benefits to infants through 18 months of age."

The global HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached staggering proportions and, at current rates, threatens to transcend all other health problems in the world. It is estimated that:
  • Worldwide more than 33 million people are HIV-infected, 95 percent of whom live in developing nations
  • Around the world, six million people are newly infected each year, at a rate of 16,000 per day
  • Each year, newborns comprise 600,000 of the newly infected
  • More than 500,000 children die annually from AIDS
  • Young people (ages 15-24) account for half of all new infections and 40 percent of those are women
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's "Call to Action Project" directly resulted from the release of a joint Uganda/US study that demonstrated the drug Nevirapine could reduce perinatal transmission of HIV by nearly 50 percent. Nevirapine is administered in a single dose to the mother at the onset of labor and in a single dose to the baby in its first three days of life. This is a very simple regimen, where the drug is given orally and under direct observation and costs less than four U.S. dollars at Western list prices. Additionally, the drug can be stored at room temperature, an important consideration in developing countries. AZT, which also is effective at blocking transmission, may be used in countries with more established health care systems where a longer treatment regimen can be more easily accomplished, such as Thailand. The "Call to Action Project" will support Nevirapine (Viramune), AZT (ZDV, Retrovir) and future therapies as they become available.

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