United Nations Zero Draft on Fast Track to End AIDS Lacks Urgency on Children Living with HIV

Statement from Charles Lyons, President and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Ryan Henson: rhenson@pedaids.org or +1 (202) 280-1537

Washington, D.C.April 21, 2016—“The zero draft of the UN General Assembly 2016 Political Declaration: On the Fast-Track to End AIDS in the age of Sustainable Development, released earlier this week, lacks focus on the urgent need to prioritize treatment for children living with HIV. 

Lack of access to pediatric treatment is among the most urgent crises in the HIV epidemic, with only 32 percent of children living with HIV able to obtain treatment in 2014.  Without treatment, half of children born with HIV will die by the age of two, and 80 percent will not live to see their fifth birthday.  Failing to address this appallingly low treatment coverage is a matter of life and death for both infants newly infected with HIV and those who, with treatment and support, can survive infancy and grow into healthy and empowered HIV-positive children, adolescents, and adults.

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) shares the zero draft’s ambition and determination around maintaining the historic progress seen in recent years towards the reduction in new HIV infections in children, and in particular the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

Still, 600 children are newly infected with HIV every day and the path to zero is strewn with barriers that demand attention.  Increased focus needs to be paid to preventing HIV transmission during a mother’s breastfeeding period, where an estimated 60 percent of new pediatric infections occur, and it is encouraging to see this fact included in the draft. 

But the zero draft fails to take the next step and chart a clear, decisive way forward to overcoming this and the other pressing challenges and future barriers to the elimination of new HIV infections in children. And while it is a testament to the progress of recent years that 85 countries are “within reach” of elimination, significant challenges remain in many high HIV burden states. It is also important to remember that only Cuba has been officially validated by the World Health Organization as having eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV. Countries must commit to seeing the process of achieving validation through to that end.

EGPAF embraces the broad and bright vision of the future of the HIV epidemic laid out in the zero draft of the 2016 political declaration.  However, the zero draft only whispers of the treatment needs of children living with HIV, where it should shout. 

Children remain among the most vulnerable and underserved in the HIV epidemic, and we have a responsibility to them that is unique in its challenges and opportunities. In the discussions and deliberations in the months ahead, the world has an opportunity to say loud and clear that it will take that responsibility on whole-heartedly.  We call on Members States to commit to ensuring that every child living with HIV today, and all those who will be infected tomorrow, will have the treatment they need to live to see the end of AIDS.”

###

About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF):
EGPAF is the global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/ AIDS and has reached nearly 23 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It currently supports more than 6,000 health facilities and works in 14 countries to implement prevention, care, and treatment services; to further advance innovative research; and to execute global advocacy activities that bring dramatic change to the lives of millions of women, children, and families worldwide. For more information, visit www.pedaids.org.