For Immediate Release
Nine Out of Ten Children are Denied Livesaving HIV/AIDS Treatment
Doctors Without Borders calls for scale-up of pediatric HIV care
GENEVA - Nine out of ten children with HIV
do not have access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs. Governments and
donors need to be more ambitious in bringing existing pediatric HIV
tests and drugs to the children who need them, said the medical
humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans
Frontières (MSF). This is particularly threatening for babies who are
born with the virus as half of them will die before their second
birthday if untreated.
An estimated 1.9 million children are in need of antiretroviral
treatment but only around 200,000 are able to get the medicines they
need. MSF calls on governments and donors to roll out existing tests
faster and to considerably increase the use of a pediatric version of a
standard fixed-dose combination (FDC) drug - a pill that combines all
needed drugs in one tablet.
"It was when we introduced this easy-to-use pill that we were able
to boost the number of children on antiretroviral treatment in our
projects," said Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF's Campaign
for Access to Essential Medicines. "We are showing that HIV care for
children is possible. We challenge governments and donors to set
ambitious goals and stop abandoning the majority of children with HIV
to their fate."
In wealthy countries, pediatric HIV infection has nearly been
eliminated through successful prevention of mother-to-child
transmission which is why HIV in children is almost entirely a problem
of poor countries. Companies see little financial incentives in
developing easier tests and newer drugs for children with HIV.
"We can treat today but we also need more child-friendly drugs and
diagnostics," said Dr von Schoen-Angerer. "Most of the life-saving
medicines exist only in adult versions. This needs to change. Drug
companies should pledge to come up with and test easy-to-use pediatric
versions of all their HIV medicines or governments will need to
pressure them to do this."
The lack of a simple HIV test hampers children's access to HIV care,
as the detection of the infection is a pre-condition to start
treatment. Currently a complicated DNA-based test requiring transport
of blood samples to advanced laboratories remains the only option for
The vast majority of children become infected with HIV through
transmission from the mother during pregnancy, childbirth or
breastfeeding. Greater efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission
are crucial. Meanwhile, the two million children already infected need
During the last five years, nearly 10,000 children under the age of
15 were started on antiretroviral therapy in MSF's programs worldwide,
4,000 are children under five years of age.