June 7, 2023

In The News: Children Lag Behind Adults in HIV Treatment, Testing

In a study reported on by Healio, children were found to be falling far behind adults in both testing and treatment of HIV. While children account for 5% of all people living with HIV, they represent 15% of AIDS-related deaths. A 2015 WHO “Treat All” initiative, intended to address universal screening and starting immediate treatment, has not managed to eliminate that disparity.

An author of the study stated the that two-thirds of adults living with HIV worldwide receive ART, but only about half (54%) of all children are receiving it. It was this disparity that prompted the authors to explore the effects of global policies to address the gap. They reviewed data from 93 countries between 2010 to 2020 that is available through Global AIDS Response Progress Reports.

The initial hypothesis expected Treat All to show significant increases in pediatric ART coverage along with significant decreases in AIDS-related deaths. The researchers did find increases in coverage and more than halving of deaths, but they also found children were harder to reach for testing and treatment services. Their conclusion was that more effort was needed to ensure consistent and effective implementation in pediatric populations of Treat All policies.

In an accompanying co-authored commentary to the study, PIDS member Gordon Schutze said, “The data from Rosen et al show us that, despite our significant progress, we have plenty of areas where we can improve; but even as we continue to do so, more infections will occur, and more children will die, and that is what is so frustrating and unnecessary. Now is not the time to slow down because of waning political will and HIV fatigue; now is the time to push for global equity in health care for children so that we can save future generations of children and families.”

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