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GLOBAL:  UNICEF Says HIV-Free Generation Is Achievable

Dramatic improvements in preventing transmission of HIV infection from mother to baby have persuaded UN officials that it can be eradicated completely.

"Nothing gives me more hope than knowing an AIDS-free generation is possible in our lifetime," UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said in a World AIDS Day statement this week.

In 2009, about 370,000 children were born with HIV, the vast majority of them in Africa. Without treatment, about half of the babies born with HIV will die before their second birthday.

In developed nations, aggressive prenatal care for HIV-positive women and widespread availability of HIV testing and care for their infants have all but eradicated vertical transmission of the virus.

Worldwide, UNICEF estimates that in 2009, about half of all pregnant women received the medication they needed to prevent transmission of HIV to their infants. That figure was up from 45 percent in 2008.

The head of the World Health Organization noted "strong evidence" that elimination of vertical transmission is possible, but said adult HIV prevention remains part of the strategy. "Achieving the goal will require much better prevention among women and mothers in the first place," said Margaret Chan.

Source: Reuters (11.30.10):: Kate Kelland; Courtesy of the CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention