Despite the great progress made since the early days of the HIV epidemic, the HIV response for children is still lagging behind the response for adults.
Children living with HIV are particularly susceptible to tuberculosis (TB), one of the leading causes of AIDS-related deaths. In 2020, according to government statistics, 9400 people died of AIDS-related illnesses in Côte d’Ivoire, including 800 children under the age of 14 years. There were 21 000 people under the age of 15 years living with HIV in the country-only 49% had access to antiretroviral therapy. How to correct such an inequality was the question at the heart of a national consultation on paediatric HIV and TB that was held from 8 to 10 June in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
The consultation, Acting Together for a Generation without AIDS and Tuberculosis, was aimed at improving the prevention and management of HIV and TB among children and adolescents in Côte d’Ivoire.
In her opening speech, Dominique Ouattara, the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, called for “The development of an ambitious road map that will enable Côte d’Ivoire to achieve its commitments.” She invited all the participants to engage in a dialogue on the challenges and priority actions needed, and to discuss the roles, responsibilities and contributions of each partner.
The consultation is part of the Confessional Initiative, a UNAIDS and United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative that is organizing national consultations and training in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria and the United Republic of Tanzania.
“The consultation presented the national situation regarding diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HIV and tuberculosis among children, identified the key challenges, outlined the solutions, priority actions and resources needed to improve the national roll-out of optimal paediatric HIV and tuberculosis treatment and diagnosis and identified good practices for replication through civil society and faith-based organizations,” said Patrick Brenny, the Director for the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Western and Central Africa.
The targets in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS and in Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free for paediatric AIDS have not been met. Globally, during 2020 an estimated 160 000 children acquired HIV, far from the global 2020 target of 20 000. Modelling has also shown that the COVID-19 pandemic could have a major impact on new HIV infections among children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ms Ouattara appealed to the 350 participants to work towards reducing inequalities and asked all stakeholders to join forces to achieve certification of the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. “Today, in 2021, no child should die of AIDS or tuberculosis in our country,” she added.