UN agencies and others on Monday formed a global alliance to prevent new HIV infections and ensure that by 2030 all HIV positive children can get access to lifesaving treatment.
According to UN data, more than three quarters of all adults living with HIV are receiving some kind of treatment while the number of children doing so stands at only 52 per cent.
In a statement issued by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the initiative was launched by three UN agencies- UNAIDS, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in response to this startling disparity.
In addition to the UN 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.
The new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 was announced at the landmark International AIDS Conference, which comes to a close in Montréal, Canada, on Tuesday.
Addressing the conference, Ms Limpho Nteko from Lesotho shared her journey from a surprise HIV diagnosis to pioneering the women-led mothers2mothers programme to combat gestational transmission of HIV.
Pregnant when diagnosed, Nteko highlighted the importance of community leadership in combating HIV.
“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,” she told delegates.
“mothers2mothers has achieved virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV for our enrolled clients for eight consecutive years – showing what is possible when we let women and communities create solutions tailored to their realities.”
Netko’s emphasis on community leadership will now be backed by the resources of an international coalition.
According to her, together, stakeholders in the alliance have identified four pillars of collective action:
“Close the treatment gap among breastfeeding adolescent girls and women living with HIV and optimise the continuity of treatment.
“Prevent and detect new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women.
“Promote accessible testing, optimised treatment, and comprehensive care for infants, children, and adolescents exposed to and living with HIV.
“Address gender equality, and the social and structural barriers that hinder access to services.’’
The potential success of the alliance rests on its unifying nature, according to UNAIDS Executive Director, Ms Winnie Byanyima.
She argues that, 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.
“Only through collaboration at all levels of society, can holistic solutions be created to effectively prevent further HIV transmission,’’ she said. (NAN)