UNAIDS and the Millennium Villages

I just saw this interesting press release from UNAIDS, discussing a joint Millennium Villages Project/UNAIDS effort to fight mother-to-child transmission of HIV. I am intrigued. Mother to child transmission is a multifaceted problem that needs a lot of different interventions to address it, and the Millennium Villages Project specializes in exactly that kind of holistic effort.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is an initiative headed by Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia’s Earth Institute. In their own words, “The Millennium Villages seek to end extreme poverty by working with the poorest of the poor, village by village throughout Africa, in partnership with governments and other committed stakeholders, providing affordable and science-based solutions to help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.”

MVP and UNAIDS will be working to stop the spread of HIV from mother to child in the very first millennium village – Sauri, Kenya. To prevent mother-child transmission, they will: 1) improve the access of women with HIV to contraception, thus decreasing the number of infants born at risk 2) work to reduce transmission of HIV to all women and 3) intervene to prevent transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children.

I like the multi-pronged approach. It’s easy to think of preventing maternal to child transmission solely in the third sense – of trying to prevent infected women from infecting their babies. Taking a step back to protect women from HIV in the first place, and letting HIV+ women decide whether to become mothers is a major improvement.

While MVP has taken plenty of criticism, these kinds of broad based interventions are exactly what it does best. I am looking forward to seeing Sauri’s HIV data in the future.