Monday, August 21, 2006

WHO calls for more ARV's for children

THE majority of children in sub-Saharan Africa are not benefiting from efforts to expand antiretroviral treatment for AIDS, WHO has said. In a featured talk at the just ended International AIDS conference in Toronto, World Health Organisation (WHO) director of AIDS programmes Dr Kevin De Cock said 800,000 of the 2.3 million children infected with HIV worldwide needed antiretroviral drugs to stay alive. His comments followed an extensive review of progress in efforts to step up antiretroviral treatment. “Of the 800,000, only 60,000 to 100,000 are receiving therapy.

While the children account for 14 per cent of AIDS deaths, they make up only six per cent of recipients of antiretroviral drug therapy and many of these are orphans,” he said. “We must conclude that the scale-up has so far left children behind.”

Dr De Cock said while rich countries had virtually eliminated pediatric AIDS, less than 10 per cent of pregnant women with HIV in poor and middle-income countries were receiving the simple regimen of pills that could prevent the transmission of the virus to their newborns.

“An urgent priority is improving access to antiretroviral therapy for children, especially in sub-Saharan Africa” he said. Dr De Cock said women in developing countries were receiving therapy in proportion to the female infection rate but added that their access to follow-up care could still be inhibited. “Of the 38.6 million people with HIV, about 6.8 million in low and middle-income countries would be expected to die within two years without antiretroviral therapy. Of these, about 1.7 million are now receiving it, but for many it is coming too late to get the full benefit of the drugs,” said Dr De Cock. “The one million people now receiving therapy in Africa is 10 times the number who were being treated in December 2003 but the figure is two million fewer than the number the late Dr Lee Jong-wook had set as a goal when he became director general of WHO in 2003. The aim was to treat three million people by the end of 2005, in a program called ‘three by five’.”

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