By Ben Ochieng
NAIROBI, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- United Nations officials said on Monday that its Millennium Villages Projects (MVP) have helped to drastically reduce month-to-child HIV transmissions across Africa.
Addressing a news conference in Nairobi, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said that one such Millennium Village in Sauri in Western Kenya registered only four cases of mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT), adding that testing of pregnant women can fully curb the mother-to-child transmission.
Sidibe said the levels of testing among pregnant women in the Millennium Villages Projects have also increased from 10 percent to over 60 percent in three years.
"Against a background of over 400,000 cases of MTCT, this is an impressive figure and with a concerted effort, we can fully curb the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and bear witness as an HIV-free generation is born in Africa and the world," he told journalists in Nairobi.
The executive director made the disclosure alongside the Director of Early Earth Institute who is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary General Jeffrey Sachs after a five-day visit to the Millennium Village project in Sauri to witness the first hand progress that has been made in fighting poverty, boosting agricultural productivity, increasing access to health care and education, and creating an enabling environment for communities to build and sustain economic growth.
"As a result of the MVP, health throughout Sauri village, where between 60-70 percent of people live on less tan 1 dollar a day, has improved greatly since the project was set up in 2005," Sachs said.
Sachs said he will convey the impressive statistics at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa scheduled in February during an occasion that will also be attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"This unique partnership between UNAIDS and MVP will design and implement a powerful system to bring the prevention of mother-to-child transmission to near zero and do so in a way that can be utilized in other parts of the Africa and the world," said Sachs.
The partnership between UNAIDS and MVP focuses specifically on reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other diseases by 2015 by decreasing the incidence of HIV among women.
"UNAIDS brings unrivaled global expertise, leadership, and detailed strategies to the fight against HIV/AIDS, including MTCT," said Sachs.
He said the MVP brings the power of integrated rural development, including primary health systems, to the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease.
By teaming up, UNAIDS and MVP, Sachs said will design and implement a powerful system to bring MTCT to near zero, and do so in a way that can be utilized in other parts of Africa and the world.
In 2008, 390,000 infants in sub-Saharan Africa became infected with HIV from their mothers.
"AIDS has become the leading cause of the death among infants and young children in much of sub-Saharan Africa," said Michel Sidibe.
"We have seen that it is possible to virtually eliminate infant HIV infections in high-income countries through HIV testing of pregnant women, contraception, and the use of antiretroviral drugs during and after delivery."
Sidibe said Africa should apply the knowledge and tools to create an AIDS-free generation in the continent and the rest of the world.
"The move towards universal prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission requires translating scientific evidence into routine practice. With a concerted effort, we can fully curb the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and bear witness as an HIV-free generation is born in Africa and the world," said Sidibe.
MVP, a partnership between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise, and local governments, provides a new approach to fighting poverty.
Now covering approximately 500,000 people and the number is growing, the project is showing the development community worldwide that an integrated package of development interventions, supported by a modest financial investment about 110 U.S. dollar per person annually over five to 10 years will be instrumental to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Improving child survival and reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV remains a key focus of this effort.
As a result of MVP, there are now six health centers in Sauri, where between 60-70 percent of people live on less than one dollar per day.
Health throughout the Sauri village cluster has improved greatly since the project was set up in 2005 with a reduction in malaria cases, significant improvements in maternal and child health, and increased access to HIV testing and treatment.