Speak up and commit to end AIDS in children and adolescents.
The global HIV community will converge in Montreal Canada for the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) where experts, policy makers, advocates, and community representatives will share, learn, and use scientific evidence to re-energize commitments and actions needed to achieve the Global targets to end AIDS by 2030.
At the heart of these discussions will be the critical role that supporting children and adolescents plays in ending AIDS by 2030, and in realizing their rights. To this end, The Coalition of Children affected by AIDS (CCABA) proudly shares its advocacy messages. These are available in French, Portuguese and Swahili. These are intended to support anyone to advocate, at any level. To help us all to speak coherently and with one strong voice.
The HIV response is off track. None of the 2020 fast track targets for children and adolescents were met. In 2020, approximately, 350,000 children acquired HIV and about 800,000 children aged 0-14 years living with HIV were not on antiretroviral treatment. Only 40% of children living with HIV and on treatment had suppressed viral loads and 210,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses despite the biomedical and policy progress made in both prevention and treatment.
COVID-19 threatens to reverse all the progress made for children living with and affected by HIV. It has exacerbated the pre-existing inequalities they face. More children and adolescents are experiencing poverty and exclusion, particularly adolescent parents and their children, the children of key populations, and adolescent girls. Millions of children are impacted by disease; poverty, orphanhood, sexual exploitation and abuse, early childhood development delays, poor mental health, violence, stigma and of missing out on education. Yet, the voices of adolescent’s parents and caregivers of children affected by HIV are rarely heard when decisions are taken about policy and programming further marginalising their rights and needs.
New evidence suggests that a lack of funding for children and adolescents is a major driver of these failures. There is a critical funding gap in the HIV response each year for children and adolescents. We have the evidence; we know what works and how it works. What we now need are the resources and political will to deliver solutions at scale.
Intensified advocacy by communities, civil society, donors, and policy makers – particularly in the last couple of years – has resulted in great policy and scientific achievements at global levels. The new World Health Organization (WHO) treatment guidelines recommend Dolutegravir-based HIV treatment for all children and provided dosing recommendations for children over four weeks of age. Pediatric DTG (pDTG) 10-milligram is an optimized treatment that can be given easily to infants weighing less than 20 kilograms. It does not require special storage, it is taken once a day, dissolves in liquid and tastes like strawberries.
Not only is this treatment great for the babies but also for mothers and caregivers who do not have to face difficulties when dispensing ARVs to their children. The guidelines also make progressive recommendations for Point of Care testing for Early infant diagnosis and viral load monitoring.
The Global AIDS strategy 2021- 26 and HLM Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS provide clear targets for children and adolescents affected by HIV. These commitments are further reinforced by several donors’ strategies particularly PEPFAR and Global Fund plans to intensify prevention of vertical transmission, testing, and treatment for children living with HIV. Additionally, the soon to be launched Global Alliance to end AIDS in children will drive global action towards achieving these commitments.
These global wins must translate to country level adaptations and actions that directly impact the health and lives of children, adolescents, and women. Communities and Civil society need to strongly mobilize together with clear and coherent messaging and advocacy that will sustain visibility on issues targeted at children and adolescents affected by HIV.
Please find the advocacy messages here. These are available in French, Portuguese and Swahili. Share them with your advocacy colleagues and peers and let us all with renewed efforts speak up for children and adolescents affected by HIV. Please use and share our social media toolkit to help spread the word, available here.
Finally, I urge you to join the Coalition. We are opening out our membership to donors, policy makers, implementors, activists, and researchers committed to children and adolescents affected by HIV. It’s a great way to receive global updates on the latest evidence, advocacy materials and opportunities. Find out more at www.childrenandHIV.org.