Aidsfonds and GNP+ launch End Paediatric AIDS In Children (EPIC) initiative

Aidsfonds and GNP+ launch End Paediatric AIDS In Children (EPIC) initiative

Launched at AIDS2022, the EPIC initiative joins forces to highlight the urgent need to re-commit focus, resources and action to end AIDS in children by 2030. EPIC is just the latest way Aidsfonds and GNP+ kept children on the agenda at the world's largest gathering of HIV activists, scientists and donors.


Evidence from UNAIDS' recent Global AIDS Update report, entitled "In Danger," is concerning. The document reveals that children are being left behind in the HIV response: Testing, treatment, and viral suppression data for children are off target and remain poor in comparison to adults across the HIV response.

Nearly four out of 10 children living with HIV were undiagnosed in 2021. Just 15% of adults living with HIV do not know their status, according to the UNAIDS report. Only about half of children living with HIV had access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment in 2021. In contrast, adult treatment coverage was reported at 76 per cent. Similarly, almost 60% of children on HIV treatment are not virally suppressed. Less than a third of adults on antiretrovirals report the same. Not only are these gaps widening yearly, but they also continue to make children vulnerable to new infections and death.

In 2021, children accounted for just 4% of people living with HIV but made up 15% of all AIDS-related deaths.These deaths are preventable, and this trend cannot continue.

Caregivers, parents of children affected by HIV at EPIC's heart

As shocking as the report was, many activists, community representatives and civil society organisations working on children's issues were not surprised. We have been raising these concerns since the 2019 ICASA conference in Rwanda. At that meeting, we joined others to release the Kigali Declaration, which calls on governments and donors to end the needless deaths of children by ensuring timely access to diagnosis, particularly point-of-care infant testing, and child-friendly treatment.

Still, new evidence from a report by the Coalition of Children Affected by AIDS (CCABA) shows a substantial annual gap in HIV funding for children and adolescents.  

The new EPIC initiative brings together communities, civil society and partners passionate about children's HIV treatment and care. Together, we hope to use sustained and urgent action to realise the global paediatric HIV commitments in the Global AIDS Strategy and the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, adopted at the latest UN High-Level Meeting on AIDS.

The EPIC initiative aims to build stronger partnerships, harness coordinated advocacy messages collaboratively and ensure heightened visibility for children affected by HIV in global, regional, and country level platforms of influence. The initiative will Identify, recruit, and capacity build a team of advocates who are parents and caregivers of children affected by HIV and identify opportunities for their representation in national and global spaces.

Keeping children on the agenda at International AIDS Conference in Montreal

Under the umbrella of the EPIC, Aidsfonds and GNP+ collaborated on the following key events on paediatric HIV advocacy at the meeting:

  • Global Village discussion – "The Promise of dolutegravir (pDTG): From Research to Clinical and Community Experiences"

The session was organised by GNP+ and Aidsfonds and focused on the experiences of transitioning children to pDTG with perspectives from community, donors, clinicians, and programme managers. The talk centred community voices, including parents, caregivers and key populations. Facilitated by an implementer at SAfAIDS, the discussion was attended by Ministry of Health officials, donors, implementing partners, civil society and women living with HIV. Together, participants identified key challenges, successes and lessons learned from the pDTG roll-out in many African countries.

  • Launch of the Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children by 2030

UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the new Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030. The Alliance also includes GNP+, Global Network of Young People Living with HIV (Y+ Global) and the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). The trio of networks is joined by Alliance partners, including Aidsfonds, other civil society organisations, governments of affected countries and major donors like U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The Global Alliance for Ending AIDS in Children by 2030 will mobilise leadership, funding, and action around  four key pillars:

  1. Early testing and optimised comprehensive, high-quality treatment and care for infants, children and adolescents living with and exposed to HIV;
  2. Closing the treatment gap for pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV and optimising continuity of treatment;
  3. Preventing new HIV infections among pregnant and breastfeeding adolescents and women; and
  4. Addressing rights, gender equality, social / structural barriers that hinder access.

Twelve countries have joined the alliance in the first phase: Angola, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, alongside UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO, is expected to host African heads of state to discuss the Alliance before the end of the year.

Read more about the Global Alliance here.

pDTG session at AIDS2022

After Montreal: The road ahead

The EPIC programme will continue to offer a platform for community and civil society organising and advocacy for children affected by HIV. Together, Aidsfonds, GNP+, and EPIC partners will support intensified advocacy by communities, civil society, donors, and policy makers to translate global policy and biomedical advances to country-level adaptations and actions that directly impact the health and lives of children, adolescents, and women.

We will also build the knowledge and skills of parents and caregivers of children living with or affected by HIV to speak up on issues affecting children so that advocacy remains guided by lived experience.

And as children and adolescents living with HIV grow into young adults, we will continue to support and amplify their voices. To this end, the Love Alliance, which includes Aidsfonds and GNP+, also recently launched the Young Emerging Leaders (YEL) programme, to build an elite squad of young advocates to engage and influence global policy and health governance spaces.

In the world's quest to end AIDS by 2030, we will not stop demanding policies and investments that specifically prioritise children. We have the research and the tools needed to end AIDS in children. Now, it's time that policy, political will, and financial investment to end paediatric AIDS follow suit.

Photo credits GNP+

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