At the international AIDS
conference, the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says much more must
be done to improve pediatric AIDS services. The group, also known as MSF,
treats over 10,000 children worldwide with anti-retroviral drug therapy.
It also has many programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
David Goetghebuer is a pediatric AIDS
adviser for Doctors Without Borders.
From Mexico City, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe
De Capua about the group’s presentation to the international AIDS conference.
“We are trying to share our experience treating
10,000 children in resource-limited settings and show we have a number of
specific problems on all parts of the program when it comes to prevention,
testing and treatment and…patients’ support,” he says.
Goetghebuer says that with children, “everything
is different.” The first problem is preventing mother-to-child transmission of
the AIDS virus, HIV.
“We are still trying to put more effort into that
because you find out it is difficult to catch (sic) the mothers to tell them,
to explain, and have them in the program following all the recommendations so
that the child would come out (be born) not infected,” he says.
As a result, MSF works closely with governments
and often runs their programs through state-run clinics.
A second problem is testing children for HIV.
It’s often difficult to get the children to clinics. “The children will not
come by themselves, so the word has to be towards the parents or the caretakers
if they are orphans. And they might be either not aware that children may be at
risk, could be tested, could be treated, or they are aware but they are
afraid,” he says.
He says parents or caretakers may prefer not to
know because they fear the disease and its effects. So, MSF conducts
educational campaigns to dispel fear and myths about HIV/AIDS.
As for treatment, he says, “We clearly still have
a problem of appropriate medication for children. The situation is better now
than it was three years ago when there were nearly no pediatric formulations.
We do now have some of the required pediatric formulation. And we still lack
some others.”The drugs and their availability
may differ from country to country.