Sharpening the Focus on Pediatric HIV/AIDS within the Covid-19 Crisis

Preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV and ensuring children living with HIV are tested and initiated on treatment in a timely manner is critical to accelerating progress in responding to the global pandemic. According to UNAIDS and UNICEF, there are currently 1.7 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV, yet only 54 percent were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018, leaving 782,000 children without treatment and vulnerable to AIDS-related deaths. Children living with HIV often lack access to appropriate, efficient, and cost-effective medications like those available to adult populations, and they have not been prioritized in the development of innovative, scalable technologies.

There is mounting evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted programs aimed at preventing pediatric HIV infections and treating children living with HIV, as health facility and school closures and fear of contracting Covid-19 have made it difficult to access treatment, testing, peer counseling, and mentor mother services. Lockdowns and the suspension of some transportation routes have interrupted the delivery of lab results and disrupted medical supply chains. At the same time, extended quarantines have also contributed to greater uptake of innovative new services and treatment regimens, creating an opportunity to renew focus on pediatric HIV.

As several HIV partners – including the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – are formulating new multi-year strategies, the time is right to reinvigorate global commitments and redouble efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Through a series of expert consultations, podcasts, community interviews, and analytic work, GHPC is examining how Covid-19 is affecting existing pediatric HIV services and partnerships; what factors limit access to and use of point of care early infant diagnostic tools; what it will take to increase the uptake and sustainability of pediatric treatments; and how both community- and government-led responses can help create lasting change and improve the global outlook for pediatric HIV/AIDS.

This work is made possible by generous support from ViiV Healthcare.


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