“No child should die of an AIDS-related illness.”
So said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé in July 2014 at the opening session of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
More than three million children under age 15 live with HIV worldwide and even now, more than 30 years after the first case was reported, AIDS is still claiming children’s lives.
The situation is particularly dismal in sub-Saharan Africa, home to an astounding 90 percent of all children with HIV. According to UNAIDS Gap Report, with the region’s limited resources focused on preventing mother-to-child transmission, only 24 percent of HIV-infected children receive treatment – and more and more of those treatments are failing.
We know these young people can stay healthy and lead full and productive lives – if they have access to appropriate care and treatment. That’s why we are so proud to have partnered with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Supply Chain Management System, and MAP International on the New Horizons Advancing Pediatric HIV Care initiative, which launched in December 2013.
“We believe that every child living with HIV should receive the treatment or care they need, wherever they live,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson and Worldwide Chairman, Pharmaceuticals. “Now is the time to invest in the health and well-being of these children.”
Our mission is to catalyze a collective effort to enhance access to sustainable, high-quality, and appropriate treatment and care for HIV treatment-experienced children and adolescents. The initiative has two components: a drug donation program and collaborative efforts for health systems strengthening and knowledge sharing.
We’re providing our HIV medicines free-of-charge for HIV treatment-experienced children in Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia, the initial countries chosen by EGPAF to participate in the drug donation program. All enrolled children can receive Janssen’s donated HIV medicines as needed until they turn 19, at which point they transition into adult national HIV programs or other nationally designated systems for continued treatment.
“We hope this innovative donation is the first step in sparking further collaborative action across sub-Saharan Africa for children who are experiencing HIV treatment failure,” says Dr. Perry Mohammed, M.D., Global Medical Affairs Lead, Global Public Health. “Our vision is that these children will receive the HIV treatment and care they need to stay healthy and grow to become productive young adults.”
In addition to meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of children failing treatment, New Horizons is creating a cohort of pediatric program countries that will share information, advance learning and accelerate healthcare system strengthening. The initiative has a special focus on the unique needs and challenges of adolescents living with HIV.
However, the region’s issues are complex and include limited access to quality care, medical professionals’ lack of experience and training, distribution challenges and inconsistent adherence to treatment regimens. Basic living conditions, such as poverty and poor water quality, along with the severe stigma associated with HIV have thwarted efforts to provide assistance and caused many to avoid addressing the disease.
The need for this comprehensive program is clear – and vital. And we at Janssen are committed to doing our part.