Range of Organizations Commit to Improve HIV Diagnosis and Treatment for Children And Adolescents. 1/12/2017

Published by OIKOUMENE

On 17 November, leaders from national and international organizations met in Vatican City to address key concerns in securing early testing and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV.

The outcome was an action plan for organizations from the whole range of sectors, all committing to work to improve the situation for children and adolescents living with HIV.

The meeting was convened by His Eminence Peter Appiah Kodowo Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, in collaboration with PEPFAR, UNAIDS, Caritas Internationalis, World Council of Churches-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (WCC-EAA), WHO, and EGPAF, and brought together leaders of major pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, multilateral organizations, donors, governments, organizations providing or supporting services for children living with HIV, and other key stakeholders participated in a High-Level Discussion on Scaling Up Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Children and Adolescents.

The purpose of the consultation was to discuss how to reduce morbidity and mortality among children living with HIV, particularly by accelerating the development and introduction of priority pediatric formulations of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).

Among the 2.1 million children living with HIV 43% are receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) compared to 54% among adults.

“We know that for the HIV response to be successful, and to eliminate AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, we must secure early testing and treatment for children and adolescents,” explains Francesca Merico, coordinator of the WCC-EAA HIV campaign.

“Yet we know that screening for HIV at a young age is often poor, and medication is rarely suited to the needs of young children. If we can eliminate such thresholds to entering and staying on treatment, this can be a major step in the right direction,” Merico adds.

While there has been considerable progress in the scale-up of ART globally, the year-on-year increase is slowing down among children: in 2010-2011 there was a net increase of 100,000 children on ART; between 2015 and 2016 that increase was only 58,000.

Going the last mile to close the tap of new child infections will require innovation in diagnosing women living with HIV; ensuring they understand the value of adherence to treatment and closing the gap between adult and child ART coverage.

This will involve increased efforts to develop new medications for children. In contrast to the consistent development of better ARVs for adults living with HIV over the past 20 years, there have been very few new optimal medicines made available for children. Existing pediatric ARVs are often bitter tasting, difficult to administer, inappropriate for low-resource settings, and with toxic side effects for growing bodies.

Participants grappled with ways to expedite the research, development, approval, introduction and uptake of optimal drugs and formulations for infants, children and adolescents. Proposals included both steps to make priority drugs in the pipeline quickly available in the short term as well as innovative mechanisms that could be put in place to facilitate and accelerate the development of pediatric formulations of drugs for HIV and other life-threatening diseases over the longer term.

The 17-November dialogue provided an opportunity for stakeholders to put forward a set of concrete actions they could take to better support the research, development, and introduction spectrum. These commitments also build on work within the Global Accelerator for Paediatric Formulations (GAP-f)2 and the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free Framework.

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