April 2021, Vienna – On 14 April, with the occasion of the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the UNODC HIV/AIDS Section organized the side event “Ensuring access to measures for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV among women who use drugs and women in prison” with the support of Norway, Sweden, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, WHO and UNAIDS.
The virtual meeting was opened by Ms. Miwa Kato, Director of the Division for Operations, UNODC who affirmed that “The COVID pandemic exacerbated existing disparities and inequities faced by women who use drugs.” and H.E. Kjersti Ertresvaag Andersen, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the International Organisations in Vienna, who stressed that “Women who use drugs and women in prisons should receive the tailored services and support they need and that they are meaningfully engaged in HIV-related decision making.” The meeting comprised several presentations related to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV delivered by UN partners, including community and academia.
Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV plays a crucial role in the achievement of the shared goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. According to the annual recent UNAIDS report, published in 2020, the coverage of antiretroviral medicines for pregnant women living with HIV reached 85% globally.
“Due to stigma, discrimination and punitive laws many women in the key populations continue to face numerous barriers in accessing HIV testing and ARV treatment when they are pregnant,” stated the President of the International AIDS Society, Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Malaya.
The side event focused on the perspective of the community of women who use drugs, highlighted by Judy Chang, Executive Director of the International Network of People Who Use Drugs; the perspective on services in prison and the human rights aspect of PMTCT was presented by Prof. Gabriele Fischer from the Centre for Public Health Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Medical University of Vienna; and initiative of “Triple Elimination” of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B, introduced by Morkor Newman Owiredu from WHO.
In the context if this side event, Monica Ciupagea, Expert on Drug Use and HIV from UNODC HIV/AIDS Section presented the newly launched technical brief Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis that wasdeveloped in cooperation with the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), the Secretariat of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and UN Women. This publication was initiated in response to the Resolution 61/4 ‘Promoting measures of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, hepatitis B and C and syphilis among women who use drugs,’ which was adopted in March 2018 during the 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND).