Swaziland Hosts First-ever National Pediatric HIV Conference

By Dr. Caspian Chouraya, Dr. Christopher Makwindi, and Sibongile Wusumani | September 12, 2013

A baby receives medication at an HIV care and treatment clinic in Swaziland, where EGPAF has supported HIV prevention and treatment efforts since 2004.

Jon Hrusa/EGPAF

On August 6 and 7, the Swaziland Ministry of Health (MOH) teamed-up with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) and ViiV Healthcare to host the first-ever National Conference on Pediatric HIV in Swaziland. More than 150 delegates from key partner organizations such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP),  the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), MSF Swaziland, Baylor International Pediatric HIV Initiative (BIPAI), and UNICEF  attended the conference along with representatives from Swaziland’s Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, and local community activists.. The goal was to review Swaziland’s Pediatric HIV programs to identify both areas of success and current challenges to improve pediatric HIV/AIDS services at the facility and community level.

The conference’s opening session provided an overview of the Swaziland Pediatric HIV program, with key highlights of successes and major gaps. It featured presentations from international and national speakers and group discussions to develop innovative strategies to address current treatment gaps. Dr. Stephen Lee, senior director of country management at EGPAF, presented on the elimination of vertical HIV transmission and what will be required to achieve this goal. Other topics covered during the two- day conference included a discussion on child protection by UNICEF’s Muriel Mafico; a presentation by Professor Gabriel Anabwani from BIPAI, Botswana focused on HIV in children and adolescents; and a presentation by Dr. Stephen Arpadi of ICAP about emerging issues on HIV care and treatment in children and adolescents. Each presentation was followed by open discussions with conference participants. A group of adolescents also gave moving testimonials on their experiences and challenges as people living with HIV.

The conference’s highlight was the group work sessions dedicated to developing innovative strategies to address gaps in pediatric HIV services in Swaziland. Discussion topics included:

• prevention of vertical HIV infection in children
• prevention of HIV infection in adolescents
• diagnosis of HIV infection in children and adolescents
• pediatric and adolescent care and treatment and psychosocial support for HIV-positive children
• child protection in Swaziland
• delivery of sexual and reproductive health services for children 

After the work sessions, each group presented their recommendations to all the participants.

Overall, the conference was a success and emphasized the need for a collaborative approach in order to effectively combat pediatric HIV in Swaziland. The conference delegates developed a framework with recommendations to address the identified gaps in pediatric HIV service provision at the facility level, as well as efforts to mitigate its impact at the community level. The framework will be presented to the Swaziland Ministry of Health, and can provide further basis for discussion with other ministries on how to implement the recommendations to establish of a multi-sectoral response to pediatric HIV.

To learn more about EGPAF’s efforts to eliminate pediatric HIV in Swaziland, click here.

Dr. Caspian Chouraya, Dr. Christopher Makwindi, and Sibongile Wusumani from EGPAF’s Swaziland office contributed to this blog post.