HIV/AIDS Experts At Conference Discuss Testing, Treatment Access For Children

Many children continue to lack access to effective HIV detection programs and antiretroviral drugs, HIV/AIDS experts said Thursday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, AFP/ reports. They added that most HIV-positive women have no effective access to means of preventing mother-to-child transmission and that 30% to 40% of those women give birth to an HIV-positive infant.

According to UNAIDS, two million of the 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2007 were children. In 2001, there were 1.6 million children living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, about 370,000 children younger than age 15 were infected with HIV last year, a slight decrease from 450,000 in 2002. Ninety percent of those children had contracted the disease through MTCT, UNAIDS reported. Fernando Parreno, a pediatrician with Medecins Sans Frontieres in Zimbabwe, said that without proper treatment, “half of the children born with HIV will die before they reach the age of two.”

The World Health Organization has called for early detection programs and for infants to receive antiretrovirals as soon as possible. HIV/AIDS advocates have said that HIV tests for children are complicated and expensive and called for more research into antiretrovirals formulated for children.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, head of UNITAID, said that because of a lack of appropriate antiretrovirals for children, adult pills often are split in two or three pieces to give to children. The Clinton Foundation offers devices to cut up pills to make them easier to swallow for children. HIV/AIDS medications for children also are available in a syrup form, and some children can take a treatment that combines several treatments into one pill, according to AFP/ (Courcol, AFP/, 8/7). was the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. A webcast of a session about children is available online.

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