Globe And Mail Examines Links Between Maternal Health, HIV/AIDS Ahead Of G8 Summit

“While the G8 is putting maternal health at the top of its agenda for next month’s summit, fears are growing that the club of wealthy nations is neglecting one of the biggest killers of women: AIDS,” the Globe and Mail reports in a piece that examines the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and what the newspaper describes as the G8’s “backtracking” on previous pledges to provide universal access HIV/AIDS drugs.

According to a recent Lancet study, HIV/AIDS “is responsible for [an estimated] 61,000 of the 350,000 annual deaths worldwide of women in childbirth or pregnancy,” the newspaper writes. “The impact is harshest in Africa, causing a rise in maternal deaths in eastern and southern Africa even as most other parts of the world are seeing a decline,” the newspaper writes.

The piece reflects on what HIV/AIDS advocates say is a recent trend – “many of the biggest Western donors are freezing or reducing their budgets for AIDS treatment, leaving nine million people at growing risk of death because they cannot get medicine, including six million in Africa alone.” The article also explores the results of a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) report released Thursday, which “found mounting evidence of drug shortages in the eight African countries that it studied,” and includes quotes from two MSF staffers and an HIV patient in Kenya.

“Despite the G8’s new focus on maternal health, its leaders seem unaware of the impact of AIDS on women and are backtracking on the G8’s earlier pledges of universal access to life-saving medicine, critics say,” the newspaper writes. “What’s being proposed is to take resources from HIV and give them to maternal health, but you cannot separate the two, because it’s the same patient,” said Mit Philips, an MSF health policy analyst.

“There will be no success in maternal and child health unless the G8 delivers on HIV/AIDS treatment,” Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society added, noting that HIV/AIDS remains a top killer among women of reproductive age. “In many African countries, about 30 percent of women of reproductive age have the virus, he said.”

“We have fallen short on our pledges to achieve universal access by 2010. Before we embrace new programs, we need to ensure that the G8 delivers on old pledges,” Montaner said. “Failure to do so will badly erode the credibility of the G8 and, more importantly, it will preclude the success of any new health initiative” (York, 5/28).

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