On World Children’s Day, WHO is pleased to issue a call urging stakeholders to accelerate access to effective paediatric HIV and tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics and medicines.
The Action Plan, which is launched today, has been developed by a wide group of stakeholders under the auspices of the Fifth Vatican High-Level Dialogue on Paediatric HIV and TB in Children Living with HIV which was held earlier this month.
Children are one of the most disadvantaged populations in the HIV and AIDS and TB response. In 2019, 95 000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in children, two-thirds of those deaths in 21 focus countries. 850 000 children living with HIV were not accessing treatment, 65% of which were aged 5-14 years. These children are also particularly susceptible to co-infection with tuberculosis, a major cause of AIDS-related deaths in this population. In 2019, an estimated 36 000 children who were living with HIV died from TB.
There are several challenges that hamper the rapid development of paediatric formulations, including lack of paediatric data for new drugs, delay in completion of clinical studies, challenges with taste, and slow market uptake among others. In addition, high prices of diagnostic products, limited availability and accessibility to novel technical and case-finding interventions as well as fragmented and delayed regulatory approvals are some of the challenges faced in finding appropriate diagnostics for children. All in all these delay and affect uptake of essential services to diagnose and treat children with HIV and TB.
The plan agreed upon by participants of the High Level Dialogue includes pledges to accelerate development of new pediatric HIV and TB formulations; improved diagnostic devices and assays for children with TB; and lower prices for early infant HIV diagnosis.
Researchers and pharmaceutical companies have committed to continue and expand their collaborations to investigate and develop better medicines for children. Regulators committed to work towards facilitating the regulatory pathways for priority TB and HIV paediatric medicines. Government representatives confirmed their support for advancing widespread availability of new tests and optimal paediatric medicines. Policymakers committed to continue updating their normative work to capture new developments and support prioritization of research and development for medicines and diagnostics. Finally, key donors expressed their commitment by continuing and expanding their investments to support development of better formulations for children.
Organizers of the High-Level Dialogue included WHO and the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation, in their capacity as co-chairs of the AIDS Free Working Group of the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free framework, as well as The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, representatives of faith-based organizations, and the Stop TB partnership. Participants included leaders of major diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies, multilateral organizations, governments, regulators, faith-based organizations, and services providers for children and adolescents living with HIV and TB.
The 2020 High-Level Dialogue serves as a reminder of the challenges that exist, but also highlights the opportunities we can capitalize on when we work together. WHO remains committed in working with its partners in ensuring progress towards a Start Free, Stay Free and AIDS Free generation and to reaching the targets as included in the political declaration of the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on TB and the WHO End TB Strategy.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the power of collaboration and partnership to accelerate action. The WHO Global HIV programme recognizes this Action Plan as the roadmap to reset the speed at which innovations in drugs and diagnostics can lead to child-centered impact. We are proud to commit to developing the norms and standards, policies and research agendas on this pathway to success” said Dr Meg Doherty, Director the WHO Global HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes.