On the sidelines of the 14th Summit of the Francophonie, the First Lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Marie Olive Lembé Kabila, launched the initiative “Rolling back malaria and eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV.”
Speaking at the campaign launch, the First Lady called for improved reproductive health in DRC, including the integration of HIV into family planning services. She highlighted the importance of male partner involvement in programmes to prevent new HIV infections among children and of youth mobilization in HIV prevention activities. While stressing that abstinence and fidelity are a means of HIV prevention, the First Lady reminded her audience of another effective tool at their disposal: the condom.
The First Lady emphasized the importance of increasing domestic resources for the national HIV response: "Before relying on others, we must first rely on ourselves,” she said, echoing the UNAIDS concept of shared responsibility.
The Minister of Health, Félix Kabange Numbi - who spoke alongside the First Lady at the launch event - underscored that 89% of maternity hospitals in DRC do not offer services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. “Even though national HIV programmes have officially been in place for 10 years, the situation is not stellar,” he said. The Minister outlined the national plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children which aims, by 2017, to:
- Reduce new HIV infections among children under the age of 15 by 90%
- Reduce AIDS-related maternal deaths and infant mortality by 50%
- Provide access to antiretroviral therapy for more than 87 000 HIV-positive women and more than 87 000 children born with HIV.
Affirming the commitment of DRC President Joseph Kabila towards the goal of eliminating HIV transmission from mother to child, Minister Numbi noted the need for: an increase in the number of maternity hospitals offering PMTCT services, the provision of a regular supply of drugs and tests, and community involvement.
Dr Leodegal Bazira, World Health Organization representative in DRC, reaffirmed that international organizations remain committed to supporting the country in its efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015 and keep mothers alive. Country partners congratulated the First Lady on the campaign and said that they hoped it would serve as a springboard for action in the national AIDS response.
Following the launch event, the First Lady toured the Ngaliema Clinic, together with Dr Pascal Tshamala, its Medical Director. During the tour, she visited the antenatal clinic, biology laboratory, delivery rooms and paediatric ward. The First Lady used the opportunity of her visit to make a donation of mosquito nets and diagnostic tests for malaria and HIV to the clinic.