HIV-Positive Children in Developing Countries Need Access to Pneumococcal Vaccines, Opinion Piece Says
HIV-positive children in developing countries need access to vaccines that can protect against "largely preventable" pneumococcal infections, Orin Levine, executive director of the GAVI Alliance's PneumoADIP program, and Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, write in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. According to Levine and Zeitz, the bacterium pneumococcus, which is the leading cause of pneumonia, kills 1.6 million people annually, most of whom are children living in Africa and Asia. Children living with HIV/AIDS are up to 40 times more vulnerable than other children to serious pneumococcal infections, such as pneumonia and meningitis, the authors write, adding that HIV-positive children are far more likely to die from pneumococcal disease, especially when they do not have access to appropriate antiretroviral drugs.
The U.S. and other wealthy countries have pledged to provide access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care to people worldwide by 2010, and they "should expand that commitment" to pneumococcal vaccines for children and other "life-saving interventions," Levine and Zeitz write. They note that the provision of such immunizations could save the lives of 5.4 million children by 2030.
GAVI -- in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Italy, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom and others -- is establishing a $1.5 billion fund to pay for pneumococcal vaccinations worldwide, according to the authors. The "same kind of commitment" will be needed to finance vaccines for malaria and tuberculosis and will "one day help make" an effective HIV vaccine available in the developing world, they add. Until then, the pneumococcal vaccine will "play a major role in protecting the world's children," the authors write, concluding that the vaccine "offers real hope for curbing the damage HIV can do to some very vulnerable kids and for saving many lives in the years ahead" (Levine/Zeitz, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/13).