News / Africa

New Initiative Provides Better Treatment for Pediatric AIDS

HIV positive child is given some jam prior to her ARV medication by a care giver near Durban South Africa, November 2010 (file photo)
HIV positive child is given some jam prior to her ARV medication by a care giver near Durban South Africa, November 2010 (file photo)
Joe DeCapua

A new initiative has been launched to provide more and better treatment to children infected with HIV. Organizers say pediatric AIDS in developing countries should be considered a neglected disease because it’s not receiving the attention it should.

It’s estimated 1,000 children every day are infected with the AIDS virus. It usually happens when infected women give birth. It’s also estimated that 700 children die every day from AIDS.

“It’s extremely serious. There are more than 2.5 million children who are currently living with HIV. The overwhelming majority of those – something like 92 percent – live in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Rachel Cohen, regional executive director of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative in North America.

Cohen said pediatric AIDS has virtually been eliminated in rich nations and therefore is not in the public eye.

New focus

“Our organization has historically focused almost entirely on the most neglected tropical diseases, like African sleeping sickness, visceral leishmaniasis or chaqas disease. But as a result of several international organizations approaching us – Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières, UNITAID and a few others – asked us to supply our expertise in the area of drug development to the problem of pediatric HIV, which is why we started looking into it in 2010 and have now formally launched our program in 2011,” said Cohen.

Often, relatively inexpensive treatments exist for neglected diseases, but they’re not available in poor countries – or pharmaceutical companies don’t foresee much of a profit in developing new or better treatments for them.

Cohen said drugs are available to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV, but not enough women are getting them.

“Many women just don’t have access to ante-natal care, so never even attend an ante-natal service where they can be diagnosed. Even if they do, very few pregnant women are offered an HIV test. And access to optimal antiretroviral prophylaxis or therapy is really insufficient. And there are a number of other barriers. Alternatives to breastfeeding are uncommon, etc. And so we still find that a huge number of children are born with HIV in poor countries,” she said.

Speeding the process

It can take years to develop antiretrovirals suitable for children. The initiative wants to speed that process because current treatments for kids don’t pass the taste test.

“Ideally, we want this pediatric therapy to be very easy to administer and better tolerated by children than the current drugs. Today there are separate liquid preparations of some antiretrovirals for children under three, but they taste terrible. Children have a difficult time to tolerate them. They’re very difficult to administer for caregivers,” Cohen said.

The drugs also need to remain stable in tropical temperatures and be available in simple doses. The drugs also have to be compatible with other medicines the HIV-infected children may be taking.

“Because tuberculosis is so highly prevalent – and many, many children are co-infected with TB and HIV– we need to find a way to ensure that the regimen that we produce is compatible with TB drugs that that they can be co-administered,” she said.

The World Health Organization recommends immediate treatment for HIV-infected children under two years of age. The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative says the goal is to develop a first-line therapy for children that is effective, available and affordable.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs