Under a third of children living with HIV have access to treatment. Caritas with UNAIDS, PEPFAR (USA President’s Emergency Programme for AIDS Relief) and the Vatican’s paediatric hospital Bambino Gesù brought faith-based organisations from around the world together at a Rome consultation to analyse the success and challenges facing children living with HIV and to develop strategic plans in order to extend early diagnosis and life-saving treatment to all children living with HIV.
Msgr Robert Vitillo, Caritas Internationalis’ special advisor on HIV and AIDS said, “In 2014 2.6 children under 15 were living with HIV. Even though the number of children receiving anti-retroviral treatment increased from 14-32 percent between 2010 and 2014, the number of children on treatment is still notably lower than it is for adults.”
The roadmap outlined key areas which need to be addressed in the next four years to tackle the issues which prevent children from being diagnosed and put on treatment. These include ensuring reliable funding, producing a wider range of effective and well-tolerated medicines for children, ensuring early testing, involving men and boys in education and action related to HIV, making sure children and adolescents living with HIV stay in school, and investing in social services.
The complexities surrounding HIV infection in children mean that a multi-pronged approach needs to be developed, in accord with the roadmap. This includes medical and nutritional support, education, economic empowerment and spiritual and emotional support.
Msgr. Vitillo thanked the co-sponsors and participants at the consultation and pointed out, “By taking such public health measures, HIV-positive children can be assured a life and future that is consistent with the God-given human dignity.”
Faith-based organisations are key caregivers in many poorer communities where health structures may be weak and among poor and marginalised populations in higher-income countries as well.”
During the consultation, UNAIDS, Caritas and CHAN (Catholic AIDS Network) used as reference a research report entitled, “Ending AIDS as a public health threat: faith-based organizations as key stakeholders,” which outlined the importance of FBOs work with people living with HIV.
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