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Children are being let down over HIV care

Children are being let down over HIV care

Dr. Luiz Loures, UNAIDS. © Paul Jeffrey/WCC

17 July 2016

We are failing our children with HIV care was the stark message of a joint session of the interfaith and Catholic pre-conferences being held in Durban, South Africa in advance of AIDS 2016. Targets for childcare have been missed, medication is not suitable and we still need earlier infant diagnosis with half of infants infected dying within 24 months.

Dr Luiz Loures, deputy executive director of UNAIDS and assistant secretary general of the United Nations said: “All the UN’s targets are aimed at 2020 but for children we have had to reduce the target by two years. Children cannot wait, HIV is coming back and it’s more selective. It increasingly follows areas of conflict, with rape used as a weapon of war.”

There was a warning from Dr Anil Soni, vice president of Mylan - the world’s largest generic manufacturer of antiretrovirals (ARVs) - that children need particular medicines and that we urgently need research to develop new drugs, even if they are not financially viable for the company. Soni said: “I heard that in China adult ARVs are crushed and given to children, which is not suitable. We are working on a new micro-pellet drug which can be sprinkled over food.”

Faith-based organizations (FBOs) were applauded for their HIV testing of children by Dr Deborah Birx, AIDS Ambassador for the USA government, who noted that FBOs were responsible for testing more than 4 million children last year. She said: “When much is done, even more is expected. We are now at a different place and the risks are more complex. Girls are at risk because one-third to one-half are not in school in many countries and their first sex is forced or coerced. We need to work within communities of faith to teach that children  should be able to grow up without being raped.”

The message to FBOs from Loures is that they were crucial in changing the face of HIV in the past and their expertise is required even more now. “We need the experience and the community-based approach of FBOs. Medicines and the clinical approach is not enough,” he said. “It’s about the way we care for people.”

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