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10th July 2015

“I control my life. HIV’s got nothin’ on me”

For mothers like Posha, Lexina, Luchrecia, Rita, Queen and Siphiwe the news that they were pregnant didn’t come with quite as much joy as it does for most expectant mothers.

Each year, approximately 1.5 million women living with HIV give birth. With no medical intervention, the risk of passing on the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery and the breastfeeding period can be as high as 45%.

Having tested positive for HIV, Lexina feared her baby would be faced with the same fate.“I never expected to test positive. It was very painful,” Lexina recalls.

But Lexina’s baby tested HIV-negative at birth. Because with the right tools and the right people, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or PMTCT and it’s sometimes called for short, can often be prevented.

Lexina and and these six mothers, from South Africa and Malawi, are among many who received treatment via UNICEF and the Global Fund, organisations that have taken action to curb  for prevention PMTCT. All six babies entered this world without the disease.

Each of these women represent the progress been made for the millions of HIV-positive mothers and the treatment making it possible for their children to be born with almost no risk of HIV infection.

Treatment for PMTCT can be delivered in a single pill. Taken once a day, it reduces that risk to 5% or less. Although the health of both a mother and her child depends on a broader package of health services, PMTCT has proven to be remarkably effective.

From 2005 to 2013, access to treatment meant that infections among children were cut in half. But, there is potential for even greater gains, so that no child is born with HIV.

For so many women, this treatment has changed their lives. They can now continue their lives, living in peace and knowing that their babies are safe from HIV.

Even more, Luchrecia and Siphiwe, like others, now have the strength to speak about their experience. It is women like these, who are the game changers in the fight against HIV.

And, it is their courage to stand up and face HIV that can help prevent the next generation from being confronted by this deadly disease.

This is part five of five in our series “From catchphrase to action” where we profile people and organisations moving beyond talk to find concrete solutions to global health issues.