An AIDS Free Generation — How one Sammies Finalist is making it happen

In the 1980s, an AIDS diagnosis was considered a death sentence. Even more troubling was the number of children who contracted the disease from their mother. But thanks in part to the work of Dr. Lynne Mofenson, future generations won't have to worry about being born with HIV or AIDS. She pioneered a clinical trial that used the AZT drug to help stop transmissions from mother to child.  With that amazing work Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been able to announce that creating an AIDS-free generation worldwide, one in which no children are born with the HIV infection, is not only possible, but a U.S. policy priority. Dr. Mofenson told me on the DorobekINSIDER program how she first got started in pediatric AIDS research.  Timeline:
  • 1989 - Over 2,000 new pediatric AIDS cases. 25% of infected mothers passed the virus on to their kids.
  • 1990 - First clinical trial that gave the only available AIDS drug at the AZT to expectant mothers (highly controversial). Within a year saw transmission decrease from over 20% to between 5-8%.
  • 1994 - Stopped the trial early because the AZT drug had already reduced the risk of transmission by 70%
  • April 1994 - Published initial guidelines
  • August 1994 -- Full Guidelines published
  • 2012 - The risk of transmission from mother to child is now less than 1%.
The clinical trial was the beginning of a long-term collaboration among researchers—called the Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trials Group—that conducted a series of successful studies to identify and optimize strategies to block mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the primary way children become infected. Inter-Agency Collaboration - "Since 1990 we have worked together to avoid duplication and to leverage each others networks. We are now an international organization," said Mofenson.
  • NIH led the research and development
  • FDA - Drug Approval
  • Medicad - Ensured the drug was readily available
  • CDC - Promoted universal HIV testing in pregnancy
Biggest Challenge: "Secretary Clinton said it best when she said it takes a village to raise a child, well, it also takes a village to work together to end pediatric AIDS. Getting everyone on the same page was difficult but it was necessary," said Mofenson. Future: "Now that we have seen success in the States we need to spread that success to the developing world," said Mofenson. One of the ways to do that is to educate woman about the dangerous of transmission through breast milk. Today, the number of HIV cases in U.S. children has dropped to less than 150 a year. Through U.S. programming and funding to other countries, it is estimated that 200,000 infant HIV infections were prevented last year alone. Mofenson's work has made her a Service to America Medal finalist. You can find all our coverage of the Sammies by clicking here.  
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