Yesterday was Women's Equality Day. In spite of the passage of the 19th Amendment 90 years ago, women are still striving for equality in terms of our place in society here in the US. Half a world away, in Africa, the Global Fund is working just to keep women and babies alive, raising awareness via the Born HIV Free campaign, led by ambassador Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Talk about inequality: Women are biologically more susceptible to HIV, thanks to our anatomy and the levels of HIV present in semen. African women are frequent victims of non-consensual, unprotected sex -- or even consensual sex in exchange for money or gifts -- resulting in HIV infection.
Sex leads to pregnancy, and HIV-positive mothers pass the virus on to their newborns. According to the World Health Organization, "An estimated 430,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2008, the vast majority of them through MTCT [mother-to-child transmission]."
What is the Global Fund doing to help African mothers and babies?
It's actually quite incredible what the Global Fund has accomplished. Via their programs, supported by a combination of government and private sector donors, the Global Fund supplies 2.8 million people with antiretroviral treatment (keeps levels of HIV low, delaying or preventing damage to the immune system) and has administered treatment to 930,000 HIV-positive pregnant women to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
That's 930,000 babies that were born HIV-free, who didn't receive a death sentence upon their birth. It's staggering to think about.
Even more staggering is the goal of Born HIV Free -- to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015. Watch the video; your heart will break, but as Bruni-Sarkozy says, you will "dare to hope."
The Born HIV Free campaign launched on May 19 and will run through October 5 -- the day of "the pledging conference that will take place at UN Headquarters in New York" where donor countries will confirm their contributions to the Global Fund for 2011-2013.
All you have to do to show your support for your country's contribution is sign the petition. It takes 30 seconds. It costs nothing. But every name counts, and every child saved is a step toward all children being born HIV-free.
Image via YouTube screenshot