HEALTH stakeholders have applauded Tanzania’s decision to join the Global Alliance to end AIDS in children by 2030 saying it offers a great opportunity as the country targets to eradicate AIDS amongst the group to less than four percent by 2025.
Last week ministers and representatives from 12 African countries committed themselves, and laid out their plans to battle the AIDS scourge at a conference held in Dar es Salaam.
The meeting marked a step up in action to ensure that all children with HIV have access to life saving treatment and that mothers living with HIV have babies free from HIV.
The Alliance aims to work to drive progress over the next seven years, to ensure that the 2030 target is met.
Graced the meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Vice President, Dr Philip Mpango said that Tanzania had shown its political engagement and was ready to commit moving forward as a collective whole.
On her part, the Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu said Tanzania has been making all efforts to approve international recommendations to eradicate AIDS transmission from mother to child since 2012.
She said Tanzania has recently completed a review of the initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission (eMTCT) 2022-2025 that aimed to eradicate AIDS, syphilis and hepatitis viruses and the association gave them energy to succeed in their mission.
Working for nearly 25 years in Africa, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) promised its dedication to improving the lives of women, children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in the continent.
In the meeting, EGPAF’s President and CEO, Chip Lyons, said that the plans shared, if implemented, would mean children were no longer left behind.
Mr Lyons noted that it was beyond frustrating that 40 years into the epidemic children still do not get the political and financial attention they deserve.
“The fact that children are four percent of new infections but 15 percent of HIV-related deaths should be disturbing enough to accelerate actions to reach this grossly underserved population,” he told the delegates.
“All of us in our capacities must have a role to play to end AIDS in children. The Global Alliance is the right direction, and we must not remain complacent. 2030 is at our doorstep,” he added.
He said that ending pediatric AIDS was at the heart of EGPAF’s mission. “I believe that this can be a milestone moment in the global AIDS response, where know-how, newer and better tools, and committed partners can come together to end inequities for children. EGPAF is committed to working with you all regionally and in the country.”
He said now that African leaders endorsed detailed plans to end AIDS in children – “is the time for us all to commit to speaking up for children so that they are both prioritized and included in the HIV response.”
“By being here today, we are showing other leaders, decision and policy makers, our peers, and donors that we haven’t given up. We are ready to find and implement the solutions necessary to end AIDS in children and young people,” he said while giving his remarks.
Other countries in the alliance are Angola, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The alliance has been supported by some health professionals, believing that it will make Tanzania tackle the long-term epidemic head-on.
“As a country we have been making progress and non-governmental organizations have helped a lot in identifying the infection. Now this development offers the answer to accelerate achievement of the deadline that we as a nation have set,” said Dr Abdul Miraaj of Muhimbili National Hospital.
“Our initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission (2022-2025) and reduce infection in children to less than four percent will actually be speeded up by the support from international partners,” he added.
According to Dr Emiliana Andrew of Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas), it was a chance for government and health sector workers to increase their efforts so that they can receive support to deal with the embattled virus.
“This meeting has given me hope,” said Ms Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “An inequality that breaks my heart is that against children living with HIV, and leaders today have set out their commitment to the determined action needed to put it right.”
“With the science that we have today, no baby needs to be born with HIV or get infected during breastfeeding, and no child living with HIV needs to be without treatment. The leaders were clear: they will close the treatment gap for children to save children’s lives,” she observed.