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Reflections on Mother’s Day : The Generational Impact of PEPFAR

Posted by On May 16, 2017

By Crystal Cazier, Associate at Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon

This year, we are celebrating progress due in large part to PEPFAR, and also the commitment of the international community, and the leadership of National Governments to work toward an AIDS-free generation. Because of PEPFAR — nearly two million babies have been born HIV-free to mothers who live with HIV/AIDS.

Last month, during a visit to Windhoek Central Hospital in the capital city of Namibia, President and Mrs. Bush toured the maternity ward. Healthcare workers were busily attending to patients as babies cooed and cuddled with their moms. There was a general sense of contentment. President Bush remarked, “Today we went to a clinic with babies who were born to moms that had HIV, but were HIV-free. And it was so heartwarming, so touching, to see little human lives that are now able to live a healthy life…”

This stop was part of President and Mrs. Bush’s travel to Botswana and Namibia to highlight the work of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and the Bush Institute’s First Ladies Initiative, and draw attention to the success and importance of PEPFAR and U.S. investments in global health. This Mother’s Day, we consider the life-altering impact of PEPFAR and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon to make more Mother’s Days possible.

Fourteen years ago, the mood in the maternity ward at Windhoek Central Hospital, and in others across sub-Saharan Africa, was likely less optimistic than the hope President Bush reflected on after his visit in April. In 2003, 700,000 children were newly infected with HIV, and 12.3 million children under the age of fifteen were living as orphans due to either their mother or both of their parents losing their lives to AIDS.

This situation, so unimaginable for many Americans, was a reality for too many in sub-Saharan Africa.  And although Mother’s Day is not celebrated on the same day around the world, the celebration of motherhood would have been one of caution, for the threat of AIDS was very real.

But this year, we are celebrating progress due in large part to PEPFAR, and also the commitment of the international community, and the leadership of National Governments to work toward an AIDS-free generation. Because of PEPFAR:

  • Nearly two million babies have been born HIV-free to mothers who live with HIV/AIDS;
  • 2 million orphans and children receive support through resource-provision; and
  • Nearly 11.5 million people are receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART).

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a nonprofit affiliate of the Bush Institute, is building on this success. Women with HIV are four to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer, so in 2011, President and Mrs. Bush launched Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon as a public-private partnership to decrease deaths from women’s cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Since its inception, the partnership has screened over 370,000 women for cervical cancer, saving their lives, and giving Mother’s Day a renewed meaning for so many.

After returning from their trip, President Bush told NPR, “I think the most meaningful moment for me was going to a maternity ward in Namibia. Seeing a roomful of ladies, most of whom — if not all — had the AIDS virus, and every one of their babies was born without AIDS.” But he also reminds us, “It’s important for the American people to know… that our help is still needed. That if we were to walk away now from PEPFAR, millions would suffer.”

This post originally appeared on the George W. Bush Institute’s website.