New study shows significant drop in maternal deaths
14 April 2010
A new report published in the medical journal The Lancet found that, for the first time in decades, the number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth has significantly dropped. Researchers estimate that maternal deaths fell from 526 300 in 1980 to 343 900 in 2008.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has welcomed the findings of the new report while attending the Launch Meeting of the Secretary-General’s Joint Effort on Women’s and Children’s Health. The two-day meeting brings global health leaders together to generate consensus as well as to plan measures to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
The report, carried out by the University of Washington and the University of Queensland and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlights that progress in reducing maternal mortality has been slowed by the ongoing HIV epidemic. Nearly one out of every five maternal deaths— a total of 61,400 in 2008—can be linked to HIV, and many countries with large populations affected by HIV have had the most difficulty reducing their maternal mortality ratio. In South Africa, more than 50% of all maternal deaths are linked to HIV.
This study serves as a powerful reminder that progress in maternal health efforts is hugely dependent on progress in the AIDS response in countries with the most severe HIV epidemics.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé
“This study serves as a powerful reminder that progress in maternal health efforts is hugely dependent on progress in the AIDS response in countries with the most severe HIV epidemics,” said Mr Sidibé.
Mr Sidibe emphasized the UNAIDS pledge to continued support for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission as outlined in its Outcome Framework 2009 - 2011. He also highlighted UNAIDS' commitment to ensure women living with HIV have access to treatment before and after birth to guarantee that newborn babies are not infected with HIV and mothers stay healthy.
Evidence shows that timely administration of antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission to their babies; it is a proven, inexpensive, and effective intervention. However, at the end of 2008, only 45% of HIV-positive pregnant women received the necessary treatment in low- and middle-income countries. Progress in this area can only be achieved by improving the quality of data and by integrating programmes which prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children into the broader reproductive health agenda.