26 July 2012

Africa: Canadian International Development Agency and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation Partner to Increase Uptake of Maternal and Child Health Services

press release

Washington, D.C. — New ACCLAIM Program Will Help Expand MCH/PMTCT Services in Swaziland, Uganda, and Zimbabwe

At the XIX International AIDS Conference, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) today announced a new partnership to improve progress toward elimination of pediatric HIV/AIDS. The project, Advancing Community-Level Action for Improving MCH/PMTCT (ACCLAIM), seeks to increase demand and retention in maternal and child health and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (MCH/PMTCT) services. The project is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which has pledged CAD $10 million over a four-year period to fund the partnership.

The ACCLAIM Project will focus on changing community norms and attitudes about key health behaviors related to HIV, maternal and child health, and gender through targeted community-based interventions. The project will also use research to assess the behavioral and operational outcomes of selected community-based interventions and their relative effectiveness.

The program will help expand services in Swaziland, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, and will focus on three key interventions:

  • Engagement of Community Leaders: Training and capacity-building to generate increased demand for MCH/PMTCT services through development of Community Action Plans
  • Community Days: Semi-annual days of information, communication, and activities to generate awareness
  • Peer Support Groups: Men's groups and MCH classes to increase and improve MCH/PMTCT behaviors.

CIDA's contribution is part of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, a collaboration with other Canadian federal departments and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As work towards the development of a safe, effective, affordable, and globally-accessible vaccine continues, HIV prevention efforts must also continue, and CIDA is focusing efforts on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

This work will emphasize the need to scale up prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs and reach more HIV-positive pregnant women with simple and highly-effective - yet underutilized - interventions. It will also support operations research to analyze and overcome existing barriers to delivering prevention of mother-to-child transmission services.

"The Canadian International Development Agency has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the welfare of women, children, and communities affected by HIV and AIDS," said Charles Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. "We are proud to work with CIDA on this partnership, which will ensure that more mothers and children have access to essential prevention of mother-to-child transmission services by strengthening community support for those living with HIV and AIDS."

"Canada is taking action that is saving the lives of women and their children," stated Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino. "Through our partnership with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, we are working to protect women and children from HIV and prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their infants."

While virtual elimination of pediatric HIV/AIDS has been achieved in high-income countries like the United States and Canada, much more needs to be done to protect women and children from HIV in the developing world. Each day, 900 children are needlessly infected with HIV, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. With the proper medicines and PMTCT services, the risk that a mother with HIV will transmit the virus to her baby can be reduced to virtually zero.

It is critical to link vital facility-based PMTCT services with communities, many of which are rural and far from even the closest clinics. The EGPAF/CIDA partnership will address the need for community-level engagement and support for women, children, and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

The global impacts from this project will be:

  • An evidence base for packaged interventions to improve demand, access, retention, and participation in PMTCT programs at the community level;
  • Documentation of challenges and lessons learned from community-focused PMTCT-MCH interventions;
  • The opportunity to implement community interventions across different contexts, with greater involvement of men in PMTCT programs; and
  • The opportunity to contribute to literature on the effects of capacity building of local leaders on HIV/PMTCT outcomes.

Bringing interventions to communities will help ensure uptake and retention in life-saving PMTCT and MCH services, and the healthy survival of mothers, children, and families.

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