Business, social media to prevent babies with HIV

Business and social media leaders teamed up Friday to tackle the transmission of HIV from mothers to babies, saying the medicine and the money are largely in place, and with the right organizational skills they can eliminate HIV-infected births by 2015.

John Megrue, CEO of Apax Partners U.S., will chair a business group that includes bankers and consulting experts and will help coordinate work being done by several governments and other international donors, as well as filling in gaps in the funding.

Women need to receive antiretroviral drugs to prevent the virus being passed to their unborn babies.

“There are no technological issues around it. There are no medical issues around it. It does not exist in the wealthy part of the world,” Megrue said. “But there are still almost 400,000 children a year born — primarily in sub-Saharan Africa — with HIV.”

Ambassador Eric Goosby, a top U.S. AIDS official, said that although the group set a goal of zero transmission by 2015, in reality about 13 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers will unavoidably be born with the virus.

Randi Zuckerberg, who founded RtoZ Studios after leaving the Facebook company that her brother Mark started, will lend the power of social media to increase awareness about the issue, by pulling in 1,000 influential Twitter and Facebook users in an expansion of an earlier social media effort to raise $200 million to fight malaria.

“I'm calling this a social good broadcast experiment,” she said. “The long-term vision is for this to be a group of thousands or millions of people who can all broadcast in a coordinated manner where there is a global crisis.”

Other business leaders involved in the project include Dominic Barton, managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Cynthia Carroll, CEO of the mining company Anglo American PLC.

“AIDS,” Carroll said, “should not be a disease of children.”

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