The World Health Organization (WHO) along with other global partners including UNAIDS and UNICEF announced on Tuesday that reveals that only half (52%) of children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment globally. According to the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022 released today, this statistic among children is far behind adults where three quarters (76%) are receiving antiretrovirals.
“Concerned by the stalling of progress for children, and the widening gap between children and adults, UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO and partners have brought together a global alliance to ensure that no child living with HIV is denied treatment by the end of the decade and to prevent new infant HIV infections,” WHO said in a statement on Tuesday.
The new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 was announced by leading figures at the International AIDS Conference taking place in Montreal, Canada. In addition to the United Nations agencies, the alliance includes civil society movements, including the Global Network of People living with HIV, national governments in the most affected countries, and international partners, including PEPFAR and the Global Fund. Twelve countries have joined the alliance in the first phase: Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
According to the new alliance, there is a need to close the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimizing the continuity of treatment. Moreover, new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women has to be detected and prevented, the alliance stated.
The alliance will run for the next eight years until 2030, aiming to fix one of the most glaring disparities in the AIDS response. Alliance members are united in the assessment that the challenge is surmountable through partnership.
“The wide gap in treatment coverage between children and adults is an outrage. 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,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a statement.
Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director stated that despite progress to reduce vertical transmission, increase testing and treatment, and expand access to information, children around the world are still far less likely than adults to have access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment services.
“The launch of the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children is an important step forward – and UNICEF is committed to working alongside all of our partners to achieve an AIDS-free future,” Russell added.
Emphasing on the importance of HIV treatment, Dr Tedros Adhanom Gheberyesus, WHO Director-General said that 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 the children with HIV receive antiretrovirals is a scandal, and a stain on our collective conscience. 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,” he added/
In October this year, Nigeria will host the alliance’s political launch in Africa at a Ministerial meeting.