As the CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, I was honored to attend the Important Dinner for Women last night in New York City. Co-hosted by Wendi Murdoch, Queen Rania of Jordan, and Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, this event brought together hundreds of women from around the globe who are committed to achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - a blueprint for meeting the needs of the world's poorest people by 2015.
Several of the MDGs - including safeguarding maternal and child health and combating HIV/AIDS - are particularly relevant to the welfare of women and their children around the world. The dinner highlighted Goal 5, which seeks to reduce maternal deaths by 75% by 2015.
In response to the challenge issued by the co-hosts of the dinner, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation has pledged to work with its partners and other stakeholders to reach 15 million pregnant women with services to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV in many of the world's most vulnerable countries between now and 2013.
In the developed world, we have made HIV testing for pregnant women - and PMTCT services for those who test positive - a routine practice to protect the health of both mother and baby. In doing so, we've been able to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child to just 2% in the United States.
Yet around the world, a majority of women who need HIV testing and PMTCT services still do not receive them. This of course puts the health of countless mothers in jeopardy - and also leads to 1,000 preventable pediatric HIV infections every day in countries already so hard hit by other public health challenges.
The Foundation works in many countries facing the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS to support and strengthen local health infrastructures, and provide services through antenatal clinics to safeguard the lives of mothers and children. By striving to provide universal access to HIV testing and PMTCT to pregnant women, we can make great strides in improving maternal and child health overall, not to mention fighting the spread of HIV.
Twenty years ago, Elizabeth Glaser realized the moment had come to change attitudes, demand action, and give a voice to mothers and children living with HIV and AIDS in the United States, where the pandemic was devastating millions of lives, ultimately taking the life of her daughter, Ariel. Now is a new moment of action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals - to affect and change the lives of the women and children around the world who need our commitment the most.
The Foundation has launched the Join The Moment initiative to finish the work that Elizabeth started, and to speed us toward the goal of eradicating pediatric AIDS. Join us today. Participate. Advocate. Donate.
Watch this video about the Foundation's commitment to achieving the MDGs: