UN agencies launch new global alliance to end AIDS in children by 2030

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Concerned by the stalling of progress for children grappling with HIV, a new global alliance has been launched to end AIDS in children by 2030, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) have joined forces to launch the new global alliance as reports emerged of children grappling with the disease having less access to treatment.

While around 76 percent of adults are receiving antiretrovirals, only 52 percent of children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment, new data released in the UNAIDS Global AIDS Update 2022 showed.

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The global alliance aims to ensure that no child living with the disease is denied treatment by the end of the decade, and to work to prevent new infant HIV cases.

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

“The fact that only half of 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.”

The alliance will also include civil society movements, including the Global Network of People living with HIV, as well as governments in the most affected nations and international partners like the Global Fund.

The four key pillars of action identified by the alliance for collective action include: closing the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with the disease and optimizing continuity of treatment; preventing and detecting new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women; accessible testing, optimized 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 hinder access to services.

“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,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

“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.”

Twelve countries have joined the alliance so far: Angola, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“The wide gap in treatment coverage between children and adults is an outrage,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

“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 ends AIDS in children. We can win this – but we can only win together.”

The alliance will run until 2030 to tackle the glaring disparities in the world’s AIDS response.

Limpho Nteko from Lesotho, who discovered she was HIV positive at the age of 21 while pregnant with her first child, urged immediate action to end AIDS in children.

“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,” Nteko said in a speech addressing the International AIDS Conference.

She now works for the pioneering women-led mothers2mothers program which she said has achieved “virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV” for its enrolled clients for eight years in a row.

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