Ambitious New Alliance Pledges to End AIDS in Children by 2030

Twelve African nations have joined with the United Nations and other international organizations in forming a new alliance that will work to prevent new infant HIV infections and to ensure no child living with HIV is denied treatment by the end of the decade.

Proponents of the new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 announced its creation on Tuesday at an International AIDS Conference wrapping up in Montreal, Canada.

The first phase includes Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Three UN agencies UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) — are behind it along with the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

At the conference, UNAIDS revealed that progress against HIV slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic as donors pull back, countries test and treat fewer people and miss key targets.

Countries with the biggest increases in new HIV infections include Philippines, Madagascar, Congo and South Sudan, according to UNAIDS’ annual report, issued just ahead of the opening of the 24th Annual AIDS conference.

Nearly Half of All Children with HIV Lack Life-Saving Treatment

Just 52% of all children living with HIV are receiving treatment that can save their lives, far behind the 76% of all adults that are receiving antiretrovirals. That’s according to data released in the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022.

Because of that the alliance says over the next eight years it will focus on closing the treatment gap and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimizing continuity of treatment, and on preventing and detecting new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women.

Its other priorities include ensuring there is accessible testing, optimized treatment, and comprehensive care for infants, children, and adolescents exposed to and living with HIV, and that the rights, gender equality, and social and structural barriers that hinder access to services are adequately addressed.

“The wide gap in treatment coverage between children and adults is an outrage. Through this alliance, we will channel that outrage into action,” UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said.

“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,” said Byanyima. We can win this, but we can only win together.”

Need for community leadership

AIDS in Children
A mother from Lesotho, Limpho Nteko, who serves as a spokesperson for the female-led mothers2mothers program (Credit: m2m.org)

A mother from Lesotho, Limpho Nteko, who serves as a spokesperson for the female-led mothers2mothers programme that works to combat HIV pregnancy transmission, told the conference that community leadership is an important factor.

“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,” said Nteko, who found out she had HIV while pregnant at age 21 with her first child.

WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Gheberyesus said no child should be born with or grow up with HIV, and no child with HIV should go without treatment.

“The fact that only half of children with HIV receive antiretrovirals is a scandal, and a stain on our collective conscience,” he said. “The Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children is an opportunity to renew our commitment to children and their families to unite, to speak and to act with purpose and in solidarity with all mothers, children and adolescents.”

Image Credits: Emmanuel Museruka/DNDi, m2m.org.

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