My Mother’s Day wish for HIV/AIDS

Anu Gupta, director of corporate contributions at Johnson & Johnson shares her Mother’s Day wish — that HIV-positive mothers don’t have to live in the fear of passing the virus on to their babies.

Both the United States and South Africa celebrated Mother’s Day this week. I have just returned from three days in Johannesburg attending a meeting of global leaders committed to both ending pediatric AIDS in every corner of the world and keeping HIV positive mothers alive by 2015. Nearly 1,000 babies are born every day with HIV, mostly in Africa — and every 10 minutes, a HIV positive pregnant woman dies.

Mothers 2 Mothers HIV/AIDS Program

A family participating in the mothers2mothers program.
At the meeting were Ministers of Health, leaders of UN agencies including UNAIDS, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), representatives from the US government’s PEPFAR program, non-profit organizations delivering services at the front lines, advocacy organizations, fellow funders, and women living with HIV. Together we discussed elements of a global plan that would ensure that any pregnant woman living with HIV, no matter where she was, would be able to give birth to a healthy baby. This universal desire unites mothers and is a right of every mother, regardless of her circumstances.

As I sat in the conference room, I kept thinking of the five HIV-positive mothers we met during a mothers2mothers site visit at the start of the meeting. All of them recounted their disbelief at learning they were positive, how they feared telling their mothers, and how they were shunned by their boyfriends. Then, they all shared that the fact they could have an HIV-negative baby kept them going, taking their daily medications, and returning to support groups. The recommendations of this group will have a tremendous impact on the 1.4 million other HIV-positive pregnant women around the world relying on us to make their dreams come true.

On my way to the airport to return home and celebrate Mother’s Day with my mother and my children, I pulled up the New York Times on my phone. I learned that Americans will have spent $1.9 billion dollars on flowers this Mother’s Day which, ironically, is also the estimated cost per year of ensuring that babies are born HIV-free and their mothers receive life-saving drugs.

My Mother’s Day wish this year is for the global community to find these resources and make a commitment to relieve hundreds of thousands of mothers living with HIV of the burden that their children will have HIV because of them. We have given hope to so many HIV-positive mothers in the US. Let’s give this same hope to HIV-positive mothers everywhere.

- Anu Gupta, director of corporate contributions, Johnson & Johnson