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Mother-to-Child Transmission in U.S. Contrasts With Asia and Africa


United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee


February 26, 2015

Kansas City, Kan.: A recent dinner forum at Trinity United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund (UMGAF) Committee for members of the Great Plains and Missouri Conferences, brought into sharp contrast the differences in mother-to-child HIV transmission in the U.S. and some other countries.  

“The good news is the dramatic decrease in the number of babies being born HIV positive in the United States,” said Dr. Don Messer, Co-Chair of UMGAF, Centennial, Colorado. “The U.S. has taken the AIDS pandemic seriously and has taken steps to ensure that no children will be born with HIV.”

Dr. Kevin Ault, an Infectious Disease OB-GYN at Kansas City Medical Center, explained that the number of babies with HIV peaked in 1992 and has steadily decreased due to mandatory testing of HIV positive mothers who are pregnant. He cautioned listeners, “Even though perinatal HIV transmission has been a great public health success, clinicians must remain diligent with perinatal testing for all pregnant women so no case goes undetected.”

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Dr. Kevin Ault

Ault urged a prevention protocol that would include:

  • Routine HIV screening of all Americans ages 13 to 64
  • Repeat screening annually if at increased risk, and
  • HIV testing should be part of routine care, no need for separate consent and prevention counseling

“We cannot, however, be complacent about HIV transmission from mother-to-child in developing nations,” said Linda Bales Todd, Co-Chair of UMGAF, Dayton, Ohio. Each day, approximately 900 babies are born with HIV which is not only tragic, but preventable.

“There remains a gap in accessibility to testing and drugs for HIV positive pregnant women because they are poor or live in rural areas, finding it difficult or impossible to obtain health care,” stated Bales Todd.

Just Save One is an initiative of UMGAF that is funding dynamic projects around the globe that work to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child (PMTCT). “We believe the people of the UMC can help close the gap,” said Bales Todd. In 2014 UMGAF funded PMTCT projects in India, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Nigeria, Liberia and Mexico.

Those gathered heard personal stories from retired Bishop Fritz and Etta Mae Mutti who lost two sons to AIDS. Other presenters included Schaunta James-Boyd, Executive Director of the E.C. Tyree Health & Dental Clinic, St. Mark UMC, Wichita and Yvette Richards, National President, United Methodist Women. Video presentations related to the church’s role in combating HIV and AIDS were provided by Bishop Scott Jones and Bishop Robert Schnase.

While in the Kansas City region, UMGAF Committee members also heard from seven staff persons from AIDS organizations in Kansas City, Missouri, who testified that coordination among AIDS-focused agencies is critical if people living with AIDS are to receive the highest level of care.

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Rev. Mark Holland

“One way churches can make a difference is to serve as a testing site as well as provide basic information about AIDS to its members,” said David Schlomer, Good Samaritan Project, Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City, Kansas Mayor, Rev. Mark Holland, welcomed UMGAF to Kansas City, deploring stigmatization against persons living with HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Anne Gatobu, Asbury Theological Seminary professor and native of Kenya, ended the forum by appealing for funds to help stop mother-to-child transmission. “I got involved,” she said, “when I saw babies infected with HIV and children without parents due to AIDS. We, the church, must be agents of hope ensuring no more babies are infected and no more parents die.” Looking over the audience, she concluded by saying “I got involved, how about you? Which one will you save?”

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Dr. Anne Gatobu

To discover more about UMGAF and its work and how to donate, go to


Diane Degnan
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765(c)