When Cynthia Uche Goyko, of Abuja, Nigeria, was diagnosed with HIV during a prenatal visit in 2009, she spiraled into depression. She feared for her baby’s health and considered an abortion.
At the urging of her doctor and her husband, Goyko visited a prevention of mother-to-child transmission program that partners with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The clinic provided Goyko counseling and antiretroviral drugs.
“When we carried out the test for my baby and it came out negative, I was so happy,” says Goyko, who, since her diagnosis, has given birth to three children born HIV-free. “That was the happiest day of my life.”
Protecting mothers like Goyko and their babies from HIV/AIDS is a long-standing PEPFAR priority and a core tenet of its new Five-Year Strategy: Fulfilling America’s Promise to End the HIV/AIDS Pandemic by 2030.
PEPFAR, the largest commitment in history by any country to combat a single disease, has invested more than $100 billion in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Based on data released December 1, PEPFAR, since its launch in 2003, has:
- Saved 25 million lives.
- Enabled 5.5 million babies to be born HIV-free to mothers living with HIV.
- Trained 340,000 health care workers.
- Supported 2.8 million clients in completing tuberculosis preventive therapy.
Currently, PEPFAR supports over 20 million people with lifesaving antiretroviral treatment.
The new strategy, issued on World AIDS Day, December 1, reflects consultations between Dr. John Nkengasong — the U.S. global AIDS coordinator and special representative for health diplomacy — and partner governments, multilateral organizations, public health experts, civil society and other partners. Their mutual objective: Guide PEPFAR toward ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The document also was issued for public comment, allowing people worldwide to provide input.
Under the new strategy, PEPFAR and its partners will:
- Close health equity gaps for priority populations, including women and girls, who are more than twice as likely to become infected than males.
- Sustain the HIV/AIDS response through partnerships with governments, multilateral organizations, communities and others.
- Use PEPFAR systems to dramatically reduce new HIV infections and combat other diseases and public health threats.
- Design new partnerships to complement existing programs and expand their reach.
- Invest in the best new scientific innovations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
#PEPFAR has enabled 5.5 million babies to be born HIV-free to mothers living with #HIV through increased access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment that keeps moms healthy and significantly reduces the transmission risk to their child. #EndAIDS2030 #WorldChildrensDay pic.twitter.com/46ArRrfHTY
— PEPFAR (@PEPFAR) November 18, 2022
As PEPFAR approaches its 20th anniversary in January 2023, Nkengasong is committed to ensuring it remains bold and innovative, and that it identifies and addresses remaining gaps in confronting global health challenges.
“Our fight is far from over and the future of PEPFAR will be guided by respect, humility, equity, accountability, transparency, impact and sustained engagement,” said Nkengasong. Born in Cameroon, he is the first person of African origin to lead PEPFAR.
Now, 13 years after her diagnosis, Goyko helps other women diagnosed with HIV to lead healthy lives. She screens mothers and infants, shares her story and offers encouragement, sometimes by showing pictures of her three healthy children.
“I said to myself that this program has really helped me, I can also help [other] people instead of hiding,” Goyko said. “I tell them I have three kids, and all of them are HIV-free,” she adds. “From there, they get encouraged to start taking their drugs.”