YOUTH URGED TO LEAD AIDS FIGHT |
Drug companies slammed for ‘dragging feet’ on the provision of appropriate paediatric HIV drugs
YOUNG people must take the lead in the fight against the HIV/Aids epidemic. This was the message of the deputy president and SA National Aids Council chairperson David Mabuza yesterday on World Aids Day.
Mabuza, addressing the national event in Soweto, attended by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said the voices of young people had been missing in the conversations about the epidemic.
“It’s only young people who can stand up and fight this and I am happy that finally you have realised the need to stand up. No one is going to liberate you from this challenge except yourself,” said Mabuza.
South Africa, home to over 7 million people living with HIV and about 4 million on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, has made major strides in the past decade, running the biggest ARV roll-out in the world.
Mabuza hailed the progress made but warned that the “road ahead remains long but not difficult”.
He lamented how the disease targeted the most vulnerable in society.
“It is a parasite that targets the poor and the vulnerable. It thrives in conditions where women cannot negotiate condom use from a position of power.
“It depends on superstition, ignorance and stigma to kill hope, to kill people and to kill aspirations. It is merciless in its targeting of innocent children and young girls.”
Meanwhile, international humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) shone a spotlight on the lack of appropriate paediatric HIV drugs. MSF slammed pharmaceutical companies for “dragging their feet” in this regard.
“Pharmaceutical corporations simply don’t consider children with HIV a priority, forcing us to use older, sub-optimal treatments for the youngest people in our care that make it harder for them to stick to their treatment.
“Worse, increasing resistance to existing HIV medicines in subSaharan African countries means that the older treatments may not work in infants and children, who are in urgent need of better treatment options,” said MSF Malawi medical co-ordinator Dr David Maman.
In the same breath, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute director of maternal and child health Dr Lee Fairlie said there was a general effort locally and globally to keep children and their antiretroviral therapy needs on the agenda.
Fairlie highlighted some of the challenges experienced with regard to paediatric HIV drugs.
“There certainly is a need for paediatric drugs to be made more palatable, and available in easier to administer formulations, although this is complex as it is often difficult to completely mask the taste of drugs without changing the pharmaceutical components of the drugs.
“Children should have access to the same drugs as adults and adolescents, but research in children is a stepwise process, only done on children once some data is available in adults/adolescents. This should be encouraged and accelerated to make sure new drugs become available in children, and could be done sooner than is currently done,” said Fairlie.
PEOPLE walk past a bus during an HIV/ Aids awareness campaign on World Aids Day at the Kuchingoro IDPs camp in Abuja, Nigeria, yesterday.|