MONTREAL, July 30, 2022 —More than two decades ago, at the 13th International AIDS Conference (IAS) in Durban, Nkosi Johnson of South Africa stood up as the first child to speak publicly about HIV.
“Hello, my name is Nkosi Johnson, I’m 11 and I have full-blown AIDS,” he told a packed house.
“I am very sad when I think of all the other children and babies who are sick with AIDS. I just wish the government could start giving HIV treatment to HIV-positive pregnant mothers to help prevent transmission of the virus to their babies.
Since Nkosi’s call for help in 2000, remarkable progress has been made. Within a decade, HIV treatment coverage to prevent vertical transmission among pregnant women living with HIV increased from 45% to 85% and there was a 53% reduction in new HIV infections among children.
Last year, Botswana became the first high-burden country to be certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) for having achieved a major milestone on the road to eliminating vertical transmission of HIV from mothers. to the child.
But that’s still not enough.
Global goals to achieve an AIDS-free generation have been missed year after year. In 2020, there were 1.7 million children living with HIV globally, almost half (46%) of whom were not receiving life-saving HIV treatment. In the same year, there were 150,000 new HIV infections among children.
On the sidelines of this year’s IAS conference in Montreal, UNAIDS, networks of people living with HIV, UNICEF and WHO, together with technical partners PEPFAR and the Global Fund are launching a new Global Alliance to end AIDS in children by 2030. The Alliance will be co-created with the broad participation of stakeholders, national governments, implementing agencies, regional and national organizations, faith and community partners , including women, children and young people living with HIV. The aim is to measure and coordinate progress towards the bold targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and mobilize leadership, financing and action to end child AIDS by 2030 by following the work at global, regional, national and community levels.
“It is unacceptable that children lag far behind adults in accessing HIV treatment and that progress towards eliminating vertical transmission has stalled in recent years,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS .
“The UNAIDS Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations endorsed the Global Alliance to End Childhood AIDS by 2030, co-led by UNAIDS, WHO and UNICEF as a strategic initiative world. We are united in our commitment to achieve this goal,” she added.
Most of these new infections could have been prevented if adolescent girls and women had had universal access to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services and the support they need to stay in preventive care or on treatment for HIV. HIV throughout pregnancy and lactation. In addition, stigma, discrimination, punitive laws and policies, violence, and entrenched societal and gender inequalities impede access to care for women, adolescents, and children.
Renewed political commitment and leadership are needed to eliminate vertical transmission and end childhood AIDS once and for all. The launch of a new Global AIDS Strategy in 2021 and the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS provide an opportunity to redirect global attention and redouble efforts to end AIDS in children