03 December 2017 - At the margins of the ICASA 2017, the WHO Regional office for Africa in collaboration with the WHO headquarters and Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) as well as other members of the AIDS FREE working group (UNICEF, PEPFAR, CIFF, ELMA) gathered in Abidjan. With the participation of delegations from the 21 priorities countries, they assessed progress, identified remaining gaps and shared good practices for accelerating efforts to scale up timely diagnosis and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV.
“Indeed, we have made remarkable progress. This progress is a result of meaningful community engagement, increased knowledge of HIV status of our population and strong leadership, ownership and commitment from governments and partners. However, considerable gaps remain. We have to invest more in HIV services that will reach populations and locations in greatest need. In order to achieve the targets we set ourselves to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, we have to address the big challenges head-on," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the burden of HIV among children and adolescents remains high despite scale-up of interventions to reduce mother-to-child transmission and improvements in access to care and treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV. In 2016 there are still 2.1 million children living with HIV globally, with 88% residing in sub-Saharan Africa. 84% of global AIDS-related deaths among children (aged 0-15) occurred in the African region. An estimated 250,000 adolescents aged 10-19 years were newly infected with HIV in 2015 and 68% of these occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. “These children have the right to access the best and most effective treatment” said Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO Director of Department of HIV and Global Hepatitis Programme.
There is growing recognition of the inequity in progress towards the global goals of the AIDS response as it relates to children and adolescents. Despite an increase in treatment coverages for children since 2010, the coverage gap remains with only 43% of children getting antiretroviral therapy treatment. “One organization cannot win the fight against HIV alone. It is through partnership that we will achieve an AIDS-free generations.” Said Dr Robalo, Director of WHO AFRO Communicable Disease Cluster.
The AIDS FREE working group has the goal of supporting and tracking acceleration to timely identify and treat children and adolescents living with HIV to reach the targets of treating of 1.6 million children and 1.2 million adolescents by 2018 as well as 1.4 million children and 1 million adolescents by 2020. Within the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free framework WHO and partners continues to work to ensure the provision of technical assistance to adapt and adopt WHO recommendations, and to introduce novel innovations to scale up testing, treatment, and care for children.