Vancouver, B.C.--July 19, 2015-- As the HIV/AIDS community gathers for the International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference in Vancouver, Canada, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) joins the Vancouver Consensus in calling for universal treatment for all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count. Providing treatment for everyone living with HIV will be a paradigm shift in HIV treatment and prevention efforts, particularly for children living with HIV, and will save millions of lives.
While there has been progress and recognition of the need to prioritize specific, targeted strategies for children living with HIV, only 32 percent of children living with HIV have access to treatment. Without it, 80 percent of these children won't live to see their fifth birthday. EGPAF is committed to ensuring that children living with HIV are prioritized in order to shrink these gaps in pediatric treatment.
"It is vital that children are not lost in the crowd," said Charles Lyons, EGPAF president and CEO. "When children are considered only as part of the greater HIV population, they inevitably get left behind. Time and time again we've seen that failing to focus on children living with HIV has left the majority of them without the care and treatment they desperately need. Children living with HIV require unique, intensive actions to identify them and ensure they have access to and remain on treatment. We must acknowledge these differences and incorporate the specific needs of children in global guidelines and targets. Otherwise, we may end up moving backward when we desperately need forward momentum to drive us toward an AIDS-free generation."
The Vancouver Consensus cites new research, such as the START study, which proves that early identification and initiation of HIV treatment leads to the best health outcomes. Identifying, testing, and treating all of the 37 million people currently living with HIV, and those who will become infected in the years to come requires meticulous planning and resources, particularly for the 2.6 million children who are living with the virus.
"It's easy to look at the numbers and say 'how are we going to afford to do this?' The better question is: how can we afford not to?" said Lyons. "The challenge is enormous, but it always has been: HIV/AIDS is the definitive global health challenge of our lifetime. The true, human cost of this epidemic is measured in lives, not dollars. This epidemic has claimed more than 36 million lives since its beginning, and we have to commit ourselves to fight for every life it still threatens to take. If we are to end AIDS by 2030, universal testing and treatment for all people living with HIV has to become a reality."
Also today, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched new guidelines for HIV testing services. The guidelines call for a dramatic increase in access to HIV testing. This scale-up in testing is crucial considering only half of people living with HIV know their status and therefore cannot be linked into treatment. New and targeted testing services are especially important for children living with HIV, who have unique and specific needs.
WHO is expected to release comprehensive HIV treatment guidelines in December 2015. The guidelines will likely recommend that all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count, initiate treatment immediately upon diagnosis.
About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF):
EGPAF is the global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/ AIDS and has reached nearly 22 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It currently supports more than 7,700 health facilities and works in 15 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 http://www.pedaids.org.