The conference organized by Caritas Internationalis, called “Early diagnosis and treatment for children living with HIV: strengthening the engagement of faith-based organizations”, was held from 11th to 13th April in Rome. The religious organizations dedicated to the cure and prevention of HIV met in order to strengthen their commitment towards prevention, diagnosis and treatment of AIDS in children.
The Community of Sant’Egidio and the DREAM program were asked to prepare the opening speech and to talk about the experience of the DREAM program. Jane Gondwe, coordinator of the DREAM Center in Blantyre, talked about the experience of the DREAM program in the treatment of the HIV infection in African children.
One of the topics discussed during the conference was the success obtained, at a global level, with the expansion of the prevention of the mother-child transmission. This has allowed to halve over the course of 5 years the number of children that are born infected. Another main point of the conference was pointing out the challenges still to be faced regarding the treatment. Among these are the percentage of children who still are not diagnosed and the difficulty of pediatric treatment. The latter currently relies on few drugs (much fewer than those for adults), with complicated doses and with formulations which are difficult to preserve.
It is estimated that there are about 2.6 million children afflicted with HIV in the world, of which 90% live in Africa. 35% of new pediatric infections occur in Nigeria. Only 50% of the children born from HIV-positive mothers receive a precocious diagnosis and it is estimated that only 30% of the children living with HIV receive the appropriate antiretroviral treatment. About 30% of the children in treatment do not reach virologic suppression.
A document tracing the roadmap towards ending the HIV epidemic among children was produced at the end of the conference, which will also be presented at the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS that will take place in New York next June.