News / Africa

Saving Kids from HIV

Some of the African women in Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation programs. Credit:James Pursey / EGPAF
Some of the African women in Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation programs. Credit:James Pursey / EGPAF

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Sunday, December 1st, was World AIDS Day. In the more than 30 years of the epidemic, great progress has been made in reducing HIV infections among children. However, health officials and support groups say the number is still too high and want much more emphasis placed on pediatric AIDS. 


Mary Pat Kieffer keeps track of the number HIV-infected children. It’s her job at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to help lower that number.

”We have come a long way. The last year we have full data for is, of course, in 2012. It’s estimated that there were 260,000 infants and children infected with HIV during that year. That’s a huge number. 260,000 is way too many. However, it is about half of the number that were infected in 2001at the height of the epidemic,” she said.

Kieffer, who lives in Malawi, is the foundation’s Senior Director of Technical Leadership. She said, “We’ve reduced pediatric infections by 52 percent, but we still have a long way to go to reach our target of having less than 40,000 infections in children by 2015. So, we’re well on the way, but we still have a big challenge.”

That challenge includes access to treatment.

“We have drugs now available for children with HIV, very effective drugs. The problem is is that we’re not able to reach children as well as we can reach adults. I would say less than 30 percent of children who need to be on treatment right now are on treatment. And that compares to around 60 percent for adults,” said Kieffer.

But often the liquid medicine for kids with HIV tastes really bad. Identifying infected children is also a problem.

“They cannot speak for themselves. So you have to depend on the adult. A lot of women don’t realize they have HIV. They don’t realize they’ve infected their child. And the health system in most low-income countries is not set up to follow – what we call – the mother/baby pair. And there’s usually no health record that follows them. There’s no system of continuous care and follow-up in most places.”

Kieffer said stigma is another issue.

“It’s very hard for families to accept that they have HIV or that they’re child may be infected. And I think people are guilty of something very human and that is: wanting to believe that everything will be OK -- and wanting to believe their baby will be fine. And it’s a hard thing for people to come forward and have the baby tested and to put the child on treatment,” she said.

Efforts to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic are also focusing more on adolescents.

She said, “In our programs for prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission, we often see adolescents who are already pregnant. And these are some of the most vulnerable women that we deal with. They’re very young. They’re sexually active. They’re pregnant. Some of them already have HIV. Some of them were infected at birth and have grown into adolescents. Others are infected through sexual activity. And it doesn’t really matter how they were infected. What matters is that we try to provide the services and the support that they need.”

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Glaser, who was married to a Hollywood actor, contracted HIV during a blood transfusion in 1981. Two of her children – a son and daughter – were infected at birth. That prompted her to establish - what was then called - the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Glaser and her daughter eventually died from the disease.

The foundation receives much of its funding from PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The foundation has programs in 15 countries.

This year, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that one million babies around the world had been born HIV-free thanks to PEPFAR support. The Glaser foundation says it is responsible for a quarter of that figure, mostly through its prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission programs.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid