Actress and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Naomi Watts talked about her work in support of UNAIDS’ efforts towards an AIDS free generation while in Mozambique.
Mozambique is one of the settings of a new film about the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. It’s also where UNAIDS.org caught up with actress and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador Naomi Watts. She talked about her work in support of UNAIDS efforts towards an AIDS free generation - ensuring no new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
“In the United States and Europe there are virtually no new HIV infections in children and many African countries are moving steadily in that direction,” said Ms Watts. “We at UNAIDS call that ‘getting to zero’ - zero babies born with HIV and zero mothers dying of AIDS-related causes. And for us, getting to zero is not a dream or a slogan but a doable reality,” she added.
The country she is filming in has one of the highest rates of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa - 11.5% of the adult population is living with the virus. But is also one of the 22 countries that is making a concerted effort to stop new HIV infections among children as part of a Global Plan championed by UNAIDS and partners.
In 2011, 98 000 pregnant women living with HIV were in need of antiretroviral medicine to prevent transmission of HIV to their children in Mozambique - the third highest number after South Africa (241 000 women) and Nigeria (229 000 women).
The nationwide programme to stop new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive has grown rapidly since its inception in 2002. The number of sites offering HIV services to prevent new HIV infections in children has increased across the country from 356 in 2009 to more than a thousand in 2010. As a result, the number of pregnant women receiving HIV counselling and testing also increased from 12% in 2005 to 87% in 2010 - one of the highest rates in the region. And since 2009, the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV in Mozambique receiving antiretroviral treatment to prevent transmission of HIV to their children rose from 38% to 51%.
However, much more needs to be done when nearly half the pregnant women living with HIV in Mozambique do not yet receive the medicines to prevent transmission to their children.
“I wish I could spend more time here in this beautiful country of Mozambique. I would encourage all the partners in the AIDS response to redouble their efforts here and in the other 21 highly affected countries,” said Ms Watts. “Women need access to quality, life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services for themselves and their children and I know that together we can make this a reality.”
In her role as a UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, Ms Watts joined former President Bill Clinton and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to launch the Global Plan in June 2011 at the United Nations in New York. She has visited AIDS and maternal and child health programmes from Lusaka, Zambia to Dehli, India advocating tirelessly to ensure all countries put in place the necessary efforts to achieve a generation born free of HIV. Last week in New York, Ms Watts urged the Women Leaders Forum, which included prominent CEOs and a number of African Firs Ladies, to combine their efforts to get to zero.