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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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