News / Africa

For Children with AIDS, a Tolerable Regimen

A nun sits among children with AIDS at Nyumbani children's home, Nairobi, Kenya, June 2001 (file photo).
A nun sits among children with AIDS at Nyumbani children's home, Nairobi, Kenya, June 2001 (file photo).

For most of his short life, 14-year-old Lazarus has been on a strict drug regimen he calls "easy and hard."

"Like, in the morning, they are easy, and then they are hard," he says. "In the morning I take only four tablets and in the evening I take six, actually, the evening one, when I take [the tablets], I feel like I am a little bit dizzy. When I take all of them I hurt my neck."

Lazarus lives in Nyumbani, a home on the outskirts of Nairobi for orphaned children living with HIV/AIDS. He began his treatment a decade ago and developed resistance to some of the drugs during the process.

His situation reflects what children living with HIV/AIDS typically experience when receiving treatment. They often have to take many pills or bitter syrups and, commonly, adult dosages are divided into smaller parts for children, which can be dangerous if portions aren't properly sized.

But for many children just beginning their regimens, all that is changing. At the end of 2006, UNITAID, a global health initiative to increase access to medicine in developing countries established by Brazil, France, Norway, Chile and Britain, started a project to spur demand for child-friendly AIDS medicines.

The result is one pill, designed to be taken twice daily, that combines up to 16 different medicines. The special fixed-dose combination is a first-line treatment primarily meant for children starting their regimen, and for roughly 26 of 114 AIDS orphans living at Nyumbani, the pill provides welcome relief.

The home's executive director, Sister Mary Owens, says she is seeing a big difference.

"They had to take five, six, seven tablets - we had to break tablets, we had to open capsules," she says, describing a typical daily regimen before the pill's 2009 introduction. "Some of our children who went on anti-retroviral treatment after [the two-dose combination] became available are on one pill in the morning and one pill in the evening, so we’re very, very grateful for that."

She's also grateful for the international lobbyists who approached the large pharmaceutical companies that, in her opinion, should be motivated by more than just profits.

"[When] you think of a child inheriting the HIV virus and having to live their life with that virus, taking medication every day, all the other restrictions that affect the child’s life as the child grows up: this is totally unjust," she says.

Creating incentive


UNITAID spokesperson Daniela Bagozzi says virtually no children are born with HIV in the developing world, as measures have been taken to prevent HIV transmission during pregnancy. According to UNITAID estimates, of the developing world's 2.5 million children now living with HIV, nine out of 10 are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She says pharmaceuticals initially did not see a viable market for children’s AIDS drugs, but now, after international lobbying efforts, companies are developing the medicines. Funded by government contributions and a tax on airline tickets, the UNITAID program, in partnership with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, now provides medicines to about 360,000 children worldwide.

"We approached the Indian generic manufacturers and basically we put the money on the table saying, 'Okay, we have these funds which are predictable and long-term, and we will be buying the medicines for the next three to four years.'" she says. "So this gave them the incentive to actually create medicines that were tailored to children’s needs."

According to United Nations AIDS agency estimates, out of the 1.8 million people who died of AIDS in 2009, one in seven were children, with an estimated 400,000 children becoming newly infected the same year.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More