According to data just released in the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022, only half (52%) of the world’s children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment, far behind adults, where three-quarters (76%) are on antiretroviral drugs. Concerned about stalled progress among children and the widening gap between children and adults, UNAIDS, UNICEF, WHO and their partners have brought together a global coalition to ensure that by the end of the decade, no child living with HIV will be denied treatment to find new ones prevent HIV infection in infants.
The new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 was announced by leaders at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.
In addition to United Nations agencies, the coalition 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, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Alliance’s consultations have identified four pillars for collective action:
- Closing the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimizing treatment continuity;
- prevention and detection of new HIV infections in pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women;
- accessible testing, streamlined treatment and comprehensive care for infants, children and adolescents exposed to and living with HIV; and
- Addressing rights, gender equality and the social and structural barriers that hamper access to services.
At the International AIDS Conference, Limpho Nteko from Lesotho spoke about how she discovered at the age of 21 that she was HIV positive while pregnant with her first child. This led her on a journey where she now works for the pioneering women-led Mothers2Mothers programme. She emphasized that enabling community leadership is key to an effective response.
“We must all sprint together to end childhood AIDS by 2030,” Ms Nteko said. “To succeed, we need a healthy, informed generation of young people who feel free to speak up about HIV and receive the services and support they need to protect themselves and their children from HIV. mothers2mothers has managed to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV for our registered customers for eight straight years – showing what’s possible when we let women and communities create solutions tailored to their realities.”
The Alliance will run for the next eight years through 2030 and aim to address one of the most glaring inequalities in the fight against AIDS. The alliance members agree that the challenge can be mastered in partnership.
“The large gap in treatment coverage between children and adults is scandalous,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “Through this alliance, we will turn that outrage into action. By bringing together new improved medicines, new political commitment and the determined activism of communities, we can be the generation to end childhood AIDS. We can win this – but only together.”
“Despite advances in reducing vertical transmission, improving testing and treatment, and expanding access to information, children around the world still have much less access to HIV prevention, care, and treatment services than adults,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “The formation of the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children is an important step forward – and UNICEF is committed to working with all of our partners to achieve an AIDS-free future.”
“No child should be born or raised with HIV, and no child with HIV should go untreated,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The fact that only half of the children living with HIV receive antiretroviral drugs 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, speak and act with purpose and in solidarity with all mothers, children and youth.”
dr Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, pledged to “transform the lives of children left behind” by putting in place the systems needed to ensure health services meet the needs of children living with HIV.
Nigeria, announced Dr. Ehanire will host the political launch of the alliance in Africa at a ministerial meeting in October 2022.
The United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) guides and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS brings together the efforts of 11 UN agencies – UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and World Bank – and works closely with global and national partners to fight the AIDS epidemic by 2030 to end part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Youtube.
UNICEF works in some of the toughest places on earth to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. In more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere to create a better world for all. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.
Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere, an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN health agency, connecting nations, partners and people on the frontlines in more than 150 locations – and leading the global response to health emergencies, preventing disease, tackling the root causes of health problems and expanding access to medicines and healthcare. Our mission is to promote health, protect the world and serve the vulnerable. Find out more at www.who.int and follow WHO TwitterFacebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitch.