Drug com­pa­nies slammed for ‘drag­ging feet’ on the pro­vi­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate pae­di­atric HIV drugs

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE - LER­ATO DIALE

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.|

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