Few Children in Need of HIV/AIDS Medications Receiving Them, MSF Says
Five percent of the children who urgently need HIV/AIDS medications are receiving them, according to research released Tuesday by Medecins Sans Frontieres at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Reuters AlertNet reports. About 2.3 million of the HIV-positive children worldwide live in southern Africa, MSF says. Most pregnant women in sub-Sarahan Africa who are HIV-positive do not have access to prenatal care, thus increasing the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants, according to MSF. About nine out of 10 children with HIV contracted the virus through mother-to-child transmission, Reuters AlertNet reports (French, Reuters AlertNet, 8/15). Diagnosing HIV in infants is difficult, and antibody-detection tests used for adults are often inappropriate for infants. Antiretroviral medications for children also often can cost up to six times that of antiretrovirals for adults, MSF said (Parenthoen, AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/15). MSF released data on 3,754 children younger than age 13 who were participating in MSF treatment programs in 14 countries. According to the data, 80% of those children were alive and continued to receive treatment after 24 months (MSF release, 8/15). "Because the vast majority of infected children live in poor countries, most pharmaceutical companies are hardly investing in developing pediatric formulations," MSF officials said in a statement. "We see the number of children born with HIV constantly growing in Africa, because expecting mothers don't have access to [prenatal] care and children born to HIV-positive mothers are largely lost to follow-up," Moses Masaquoi, an MSF physician in Malawi, said, adding, "We know that treating children works, but, with better tools, we could be treating so many more" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/15). The agency is calling on international organizations, such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF, to ask pharmaceutical companies to produce antiretrovirals for children (Reuters AlertNet, 8/15). "Lack of guidance from WHO is making the treatment of children even more confusing, and some clear indications three years ago could have really helped avoid this," Fernando Pascual, a pharmacist with MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, said (MSF release, 8/15).
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