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Women: At the Heart of the HIV Response for Children

02 August 2018

Last week UNICEF published 'Women: At the Heart of the HIV Response in Children', a report examining HIV and AIDS throughout the lifecycle of mothers and their children. The report looks at pregnancy, infancy, childhood and adolescence in the context of HIV.

Accompanying the report is a series of essays and perspectives from some of the world's extraordinary women leaders in the global HIV response, who have 'led the response in their spheres and made it their life's work.' The collection includes an essay by Diana Gibb, Professor of Epidemiology at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL.

Henrietta H. Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF said: "This publication shares the perspectives of women from all over the world, including policymakers and researchers, doctors and campaigners who are helping lead the HIV response for women and children. Their testimonies illuminate and personalize the data and the narrative in the rest of the report."

Professor Gibb is a long-time pioneer of paediatric HIV drug trials all over the world. 'Working together to find solutions for children' (see page 84) provides an insight into how difficult it was to find suitable drugs to administer to children in Africa in the early 2000s and why trials of new formulations were so vital.

Professor Gibb said: "The idea behind all these studies was to provide evidence to ensure that children could receive drugs and care near their homes and in formulations and doses that could be easily given by caregivers and prescribed by health-care workers at primary-care-level facilities. This is crucial, because HIV-infected children are more vulnerable to rapid disease progression and early death than any other group."

The complications around treating young children help to explain why paediatric HIV treatment is more centralised in many countries. Children are often required to visit specialists in hospitals or other higher-level facilities. Suboptimal connections and referral systems between service points, as well as financial burden, contribute to delays in initiating antiretroviral therapy and staying retained in care.

The full report, along with a 'Key Facts' summary, can be found on the UNICEF website (link in Further Information).