UN: African ministers call for global effort to end pediatric AIDS

New York, US (PANA) - African ministers of health, deputy ministers and senior HIV programme officials have called on the international community to make ending the pediatric AIDS epidemic a global political priority.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), in a statement obtained  by PANA in New York on Wednesday, said the African health ministers and other officials made the call at a meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on Tuesday.

It said that the participants also called for the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, to be agreed on at the upcoming UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, to include targets to scale up prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services and pediatric HIV testing and treatment.

It said the participants included 11 national ministers, as well as deputy ministers and senior HIV programme officials from across Africa, which is home to nearly 90 per cent of all children living with HIV, noting that, in 2014, 2.6 million children were living with HIV and 32 per cent had access to anti-retroviral therapy.

They said that, without treatment, half of all children living with HIV will die before they are two years old.

The African ministers also said the Political Declaration on Ending AIDS should include clear targets to scale up prevention and treatment services in order to end pediatric AIDS.

To achieve these targets, the ministers endorsed the immediate front-loading of resources for pediatric HIV treatment and the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

They also said that scientific developments have the potential to dramatically improve treatment outcomes for children.

They noted the importance of fully leveraging and scaling up innovative tools, including point-of-care technologies for early infant diagnosis, pediatric treatment regimens recommended by the World Health Organization and family-centred service delivery approaches that improve retention in care and treatment adherence.

The ministers called on UNAIDS to coordinate initiatives on pediatric HIV treatment across all sectors, stating: "We need to strengthen cooperation among stakeholders to get better results for children."

The statement also quoted the First Lady of Cote d’Ivoire, Ms. Dominique Ouattara, who is also UNAIDS Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission and the Promotion of Pediatric Treatment for HIV, as saying: "Ending pediatric AIDS requires action at two levels."

"On the one hand, we must prevent new HIV infections among children, and, on the other hand, we must provide treatment and care to all children who are living with HIV," she said.

She also stressed the need for continued progress in preventing new HIV infections among children by ensuring all pregnant women are tested for HIV and women living with HIV receive treatment.

"This has established a strong foundation for ending pediatric AIDS. But, to make it a thing of the past, substantially better results are needed across the HIV treatment cascade for children," Ms. Quattara noted.

UNAIDS projects that it is possible to end pediatric AIDS by 2020, if treatment targets are met by 2018. These include reaching 95 per cent treatment coverage for both pregnant women and children living with HIV.

It said recent trends point towards the feasibility of achieving these targets, and major gains have been made in providing anti-retroviral medicines to pregnant women living with HIV to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies.

From 2010 to 2014, new HIV infections among children dropped by 58 per cent, and in the same period, HIV treatment coverage among children living with HIV more than doubled.

UNAIDS, however, said that more needs to be done to ensure that no child is left behind.

Ms. Jeanne Gapiya Niyonzima, president of the Burundi Association Nationale de Soutien aux Seropositifs et aux Malades du SIDA and mother of a child, who died of AIDS-related causes at 18 months of age, who spoke at the meeting, asked: "Today we have effective treatment regimens, yet how many children are still dying in the age of anti-retroviral therapy?."

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel SIdibe, said: "This is a question of social justice, a question of equality, we have the opportunity to have a Political Declaration on Ending AIDS from the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS to help us set concrete objectives so that treatment becomes universal for everyone, wherever they find themselves."

The statement disclosed that Mr. Sidibe was presented with the Grand Officier de l'Ordre National de la Republique de Cote d'Ivoire, in recognition of his global leadership on behalf of children affected by HIV.

Accepting the award, the UNAIDS chief encouraged all participants to work towards the goal of ending pediatric AIDS.

Leading donors, programme implementers and civil society involved in pediatric HIV treatment, as well as private industry, also attended the ministerial meeting.

The event was convened by UNAIDS, the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, ELMA Philanthropies, Funders Concerned About AIDS, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Johnson

11 Maio 2016 15:43:08

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