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.