What’s the problem?
Hundreds of children die needlessly from AIDS-related illnesses every day. They live mainly in poor countries and do not have access to early HIV testing and treatment with life-saving medicines.
Why are children getting HIV?
In 2007, 420,000 children worldwide were newly-infected with HIV. Many are infected either in the womb, during birth, or during breast feeding. HIV is particularly aggressive in small children, and yet timely and adequate treatment is very successful.
Is the infection of a child inevitable if the mother has HIV?
No, low-cost, easy-to-administer preventative[RV1] antiretroviral (ARV) medicines are up to 98% effective in blocking HIV transmission from an infected mother to her child. Mother-to-child transmission can also be prevented by having a caesarian section (if in sterile conditions and with a doctor) and by the avoidance of breastfeeding if an alternative is available.
Why aren’t measures taken to diagnose and treat children effectively?
Many children are not diagnosed with HIV until their immune systems have been destroyed. Standard HIV tests cannot always determine whether or not a child has contracted the virus from her/his HIV-positive mother until the child is 18 months old. For earlier and more reliable HIV testing in infants, more sophisticated and expensive tests are needed and often are not available in developing countries.
To effectively treat HIV in small children, liquid formulations are needed. These often require refrigeration – which is not always available in developing countries. It is difficult to administer medicines in pill form to very young children.
What is HAART?
It means Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment. This involves a combination of at least three HIV medicines which slow down the progression of HIV.
Why does your campaign also refer to Tuberculosis?
TB is the most common opportunistic infection in children with HIV. If treatment is inadequate, it can kill children with HIV. Yet, TB can be treated and cured with the right medicines. Investment is often not made in producing treatment for children with HIV/TB co-infection because most of these cases are in poor countries, which are less profitable for drug companies.
What is does your campaign want to achieve?
The overall goal of the campaign is to achieve greater access to HIV and TB diagnosis and treatment to children in poor countries. We want pharmaceutical companies and governments to boost funding and increase research to develop more effective and “user-friendly” testing methods to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. We are urging the development of a greater number of low-cost and “child-friendly” formulations and dosages of paediatric HIV medicines.
Why have you launched your campaign now?
The 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is celebrated in 2009. The convention states that every child has the right to life. Children also have the right to the highest attainable standard of health and access to health facilities.
What can I do to help?
Get informed about the issue of HIV in children. Find out what the government and drug companies in your country are doing in this area. Awareness raise with the public, media and researchers. If you’re a teacher, you can encourage your students to take part in our letter writing campaign to drug companies and governments.