AIDS conference praises efforts of four countries


Four countries were singled out for praise Sunday at an AIDS conference after reducing mother to child transmission of the HIV virus by making the appropriate drugs readily available.

The four countries - Botswana, Brazil, Thailand and Uganda - were presented with awards at the opening of the third conference on Global Strategies for the Prevention of HIV Transmission from Mothers to Infants, which got under way in Kampala today.

Botswana initiated two pilot programmes on mother to child transmission in 1999 providing the anti-retroviral drug AZT free to all HIV-positive pregnant women. The project has been extended to half of the country's districts.

Brazil was honoured for its policy of providing AZT free to all HIV-infected mothers and infants attending public hospitals.

Thailand was commended for its role in a 1996 research project, in conjunction with the US-based Centres for Disease Control, during which it was observed that AZT could reduce mother to child transmission.

Uganda was also singled out as success story in reducing HIV prevalence from 18.5 percent in 1995 to 8.3 percent in 1999.

The five-day conference is expected to attract around 600 delegates. A satellite conference on women and HIV will be held concurrently.

There are 1.2 million HIV-infected children alive around the world and about 1,800 babies are born with the virus every day, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.