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UN envoy on ending HIV/AIDS in Africa says child treatments possible in 18 months

UN envoy on ending HIV/AIDS in Africa says child treatments possible in 18 months

Stephen Lewis
The United Nations children's and public health agencies may be able to develop and market anti-HIV/AIDS formulations for children within 18 months, the UN Special Envoy helping to coordinate the battle against HIV/AIDS in Africa said today in Barcelona, Spain.

Addressing a conference on AIDS orphans in Africa, Special Envoy Stephen Lewis said the lack of treatment suitable for children was a long-time problem, but the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were now trying to find solutions.

"The most important touch of solace on the horizon is that UNICEF and WHO have come together in an effort to address the most complex aspects of this predicament," he said. "It's estimated that if we started immediately, we could get certain paediatric formulations onto the market within 18 months."

Nonetheless, the 2.2 million children already living with AIDS were likely to lose the race against time, he said.

The most effective way to stop the infection of children was to stop transmission from the pregnant mother to the developing child, but only 10 per cent of HIV-infected expectant mothers in Africa could access clinics providing prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT), he said.

Those clinics were distributing single-dose nevirapine, which if 80 per cent of infected African women got it, would reduce child infection by half, or 300,000 cases, Mr. Lewis said.

"On the other hand, in the West, using full-anti-retroviral (ATV) intervention, what we call triple dose therapy, the numbers of infected children have been cut virtually to zero," he said, asking, "How long will this double standard be tolerated? How long will the lives of African children be considered of lesser worth?"