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8 years to end Aids in children, declares WHO and UNAIDS

Change the lives of children left behind by putting in place the systems needed to ensure that health services meet the needs of children living with HIV. Picture: David Mark/Pixabay

Change the lives of children left behind by putting in place the systems needed to ensure that health services meet the needs of children living with HIV. Picture: David Mark/Pixabay

Published Aug 3, 2022

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According to information that has just been made public in the UNAIDS Global Aids Update 2022, just (52%) of children living with HIV are receiving life-saving treatment, lagging considerably behind are adults who are receiving antiretrovirals in three-quarters (76%) of cases.

To stop the spread of new infant HIV infections in the coming decade, UNAIDS, Unicef, WHO, and partners are forming a global alliance to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment.

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They are concerned about stagnant progress for children and the widening gap between children and adults.

The coalition also comprises national governments in the most afflicted countries, civil society organisations like the Global Network of People Living with HIV, and foreign partners like PEPFAR and the Global Fund.

South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are among the 12 nations that have joined the alliance in its initial phase.

A consensus has been reached following consultations among alliance members on four pillars of collective action:

  • closing the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimizing continuity of treatment;
  • preventing and detecting new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women;
  • accessible testing, optimized treatment, and comprehensive care for infants, children, and adolescents exposed to and living with HIV;
  • and addressing rights, gender equality, and the social and structural barriers that hinder access to services.

Addressing the International Aids Conference, Limpho Nteko from Lesotho shared how we must all sprint together to end Aids in children by 2030.

“To succeed, we need a healthy, informed generation of young people who feel free to talk about HIV, and to get the services and support they need to protect themselves and their children from HIV.

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“Mothers2mothers has achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV for our enrolled clients for eight consecutive years - showing what is possible when we let women and communities create solutions tailored to their realities.”

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The alliance will run for the next eight years until 2030, aiming to fix one of the most glaring disparities in the Aids response.

“The wide gap in treatment coverage between children and adults is an outrage,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“Through this alliance, we will channel that outrage into action. By bringing together new improved medicines, new political commitment, and the determined activism of communities, we can be the generation who end AIDS in children. We can win this – but we can only win together.”

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Catherine Russell, Unicef's Executive Director, said that children worldwide still have far fewer access to HIV care, treatment, and prevention services than adults despite progress to reduce vertical transmission, increase testing, and provide more information.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared that, “no child should be born with or grow up with HIV, and no child with HIV should go without treatment“.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.

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