10,000 children in developing countries to receive AIDS treatment in 2005NEW YORK, 11 April 2004 – UNICEF today praised a Clinton Foundation plan that will significantly increase the number of children receiving life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) drugs specifically formulated for them.
“While there has been impressive progress in treating HIV/AIDS in adults, children living with HIV, or who have AIDS, have not seen the benefits. This initiative is a great first step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done, and done quickly. Children should never be last on the list to get this kind of treatment, they should be among the first," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said.
The plan calls for treating 10,000 HIV-positive children in 2005, and includes an agreement with CIPLA, an India-based pharmaceutical company to supply pediatric AIDS drugs at less than half current market rates.
Pediatric medicines have already been ordered for China, the Dominican Republic, Lesotho, Rwanda and Tanzania, with treatment set to begin as early as May in China. An additional five countries are to be added during 2005. Together with UNICEF and partners, the Foundation expects to be treating up to 60,000 children by 2006.
In most developing countries, challenges to providing treatment for children with AIDS include lack of facilities and technologies for early diagnosis of HIV in children, poor health infrastructure and systems, insufficient trained health personnel and the absence of appropriate pediatric ARV formulations.
Where treatments are available cost has been prohibitive, with pediatric formulations costing up to five times as much as ARV drugs for adults, in part because suppliers do not have large enough orders.
Children represent a disproportionate number of those needing immediate AIDS treatment. Today, 15,000 – 25,000 children – out of an estimated 2.2 million children living with HIV – are on treatment, with nearly half of the total in Brazil and Thailand. In 2004 alone, some 640,000 children under age 15 became infected, and around 510,000 children died of AIDS. The vast majority of children who become HIV-positive will die before age 5 without treatment. Globally, three per cent of deaths in children under 5 are now attributable to AIDS. In hard-hit countries, AIDS causes between a third and half of child deaths.
“The most effective way of preventing HIV in children is to keep them from getting infected in the first place,” Bellamy added. “We have the drugs and technology to prevent the vast majority of infections by mother to child transmission, but are simply not scaling up interventions fast enough.”
Today marks a remarkable initiative and one which we congratulate President Clinton wholeheartedly on. However so much more still needs to be done to provide urgent assistance to the increasing number of children living with, and increasingly affected by HIV/AIDS.