OAFLA and EGPAF Partner to Advocate for Pediatric HIV Treatment

The 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) was held on the margins of the African Union Commission (AUC) Heads of State meeting late last month, with the theme “Advancing Sustainable Partnership to End Pediatric AIDS and Improve Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights.” The theme of the General Assembly’s meeting could not have been more appropriate; The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and OAFLA have come together to work towards ending AIDS in children.

With OAFLA Secretariat’s mandate to increase the capacity of First Ladies to advocate for effective solutions to respond to HIV, and EGPAF working to end AIDS in children, the two organizations partnered to develop an advocacy tool kit on pediatric HIV treatment. The tool kit will help the First Ladies and their teams to understand the challenges children face in accessing HIV treatment and the actions that they need to undertake to increase the number of children accessing HIV treatment. Additionally, the tool kit provides various tools that the First Ladies can use in their efforts to advocate for pediatric HIV treatment.

Prior to the General Assembly, the OAFLA Secretariat and EGPAF hosted a capacity building workshop for the Technical Advisors (TAs) to the First Ladies on advocacy for pediatric HIV treatment. During the workshop, the TAs discussed progress countries are making with pediatric HIV treatment and what needs to be done differently to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets for children. The targets require that 90% of all children living with HIV know their status, 90% of those children diagnosed are initiated on treatment, and 90% of those children on treatment achieve viral suppression.

Because children continue to be left behind in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic, the First Ladies are uniquely positioned to make a difference: to mobilize families to get tested and to know the HIV status of their children so that they can get appropriate services to enable them to live long, healthy lives. The Technical Advisors shared the First Ladies’ experiences of working with the government, civil society, communities and other partners to achieve better health outcomes for their citizens.

Participants at the workshop also discussed pediatric HIV treatment issues (included in the tool kit), including: prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), early infant diagnosis (EID) and linkage to care, pediatric formulations, and stigma and discrimination against those living with the disease.

The tool kit aims to facilitate the achievement of OAFLA goals outlined in their strategic plan of 2014-2018

During the General Assembly, the First Ladies shared the progress that has been made in addressing the HIV epidemic in their countries and used the opportunity to deliberate what needs to be done to reach more children with services for prevention and treatment of the disease. The President of OAFLA and First Lady of Ghana, Dr. Nana Lordina Dramani Mahama, urged the members of OAFLA to “use [their] individual and collective voices to bring an end to AIDS among Africa’s children and improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of our adolescents.”

EGPAF and OAFLA will continue to work with the First Ladies to support what was acknowledged as the biggest challenge in the Africa region and a serious human rights issue - pediatric AIDS.

About the authors: Fassika Alemayehu is Programme Officer for the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS. Rhoda Igweta Murangiri is Associate Director, Public Policy and Advocacy for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.