Spotlight: Improving Access to Pediatric HIV/AIDS Treatment topic at Geneva Human Rights Council

How will the United Nations Human Rights Council help bridge the gap in access to pediatric HIV/AIDS treatment?

United Nations

It is a very busy time in Geneva right now, with the recent conclusion of the World Health Assembly (WHA), the start of the United Nations (UN) 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, and buzz about possible peace talks to regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria to be hosted here in the coming weeks.

From the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s (EGPAF) perspective, the UN Human Rights Council session got off to a great start, with a detailed interactive dialogue between member states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, who recently submitted a key report to the Council regarding access to medicines.

EGPAF submitted a written statement regarding the report, stressing the need to give more attention to the special challenges facing children in accessing medicines – particularly children living with HIV. Philip O’Brien, EGPAF’s Executive Vice President of Communications, Advocacy and Development, also provided an oral statement:

“The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health outlining the challenges facing those trying to access medicine. The population that faces the biggest challenge in this regard is children living with HIV. However, 30 years into the HIV epidemic, children continue to be left behind when it comes to accessing medicines.”

Addressing member states and the Special Rapporteur, O’Brien went on to say, “it is important to note that while 57 percent of adults in need currently have access to treatment, only 28 percent of children living with HIV access the medicines they need.”

“One of the problems is a lack of treatment options. Pharmaceutical companies -- including those who manufacture generic formulations -- do not see a return on investment in pediatric medicine. They argue that since HIV infection in children has been virtually eliminated in the United States and Europe, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is becoming increasingly possible in the developing world, pediatric ARV demand will decline—leaving them with less financial return on their investment in pediatric HIV medicines.”

Responding to a key recommendation the Special Rapporteur had made to member states, O’Brien added, “The Special Rapporteur has urged states to adopt detailed national plans of action that prioritize access to medicines and allocate resources accordingly. We ask in turn that the states ensure that in these plans, the particular needs of children in accessing medicines, including the needs of children living with HIV, are specifically addressed.”

You can watch Philip O’Brien’s statement at the UN Human Rights Council here.

Eliane Drakopoulos is Public Policy and Advocacy Officer for the Foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland.