It was revealed during the findings of a Project dubbed Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) which was launched in 2014.
Implemented by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Children’s Investment Fund foundation (CIFF) in nine countries including Tanzania, the two-year project aimed to double the number of children receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) in sub-Saharan Africa.
ACT was implemented in nine PEPFAR-supported countries which are Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
According to UNIAIDS data, 2015 at least 91,354 children were living with HIV in Tanzania.
Sharing the Tanzania Initiative to Accelerate Children on Treatment (TICoT) in Dar es Salaam yesterday, deputy programme manager of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) Dr Anath Rwebembera said that the number of children receiving antiretroviral treatment had risen.
According to her, at least 67 per cent of children living with HIV were currently receiving ART treatment leaving 33 per cent out of the service.
Statistics shows that in 2015 at least 56 per cent of children living with HIV were receiving ART treatment.
“Despite the challenges Tanzania has been doing well in the efforts to enable children with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy,” she said.
Dr Rwebembera said that the government will continue to strengthen its efforts to ensure that all children were reached by the services so as to reduce the burden of the disease but also ensuring that children were healthy for them to grow economies, create jobs, and contribute to their families and the communities at large.
She added that more coordinated efforts among stakeholders were needed to push the goals forward.
“There are some challenges in awareness, community engagement, shortage of service providers …so the government in collaboration with health stakeholders was struggling to accelerate children’s HIV treatment,” she noted.
For his part, PEPFER coordinator, Brian Rettman noted that while 3.2 million children were living with HIV/AIDS today worldwide, only one fourth had access to treatment.
He said that while there had been great strides in the scale-up of HIV care and treatment in general, there was still a long way to go to ensure that HIV-infected children had access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment.
“We must invest in new pediatric diagnostic tools and antiretroviral formulations for the 3.2 million children who are currently living with HIV. Children can’t be treated as adults, they require medicines, care, and support that are age-appropriate and effective for their specific needs,” he said.
He said that during its two years, the initiative produced an unprecedented bank of strategies and experiences.
“Designed as public- private partnership, ACT combined a unique pool of resources and technical expertise to achieve greater efficiencies and the results made a critical contribution to the global frameworks and targets that guide reponse to health, HIV and pediatric care and treatment,” he added.
Meena Srivastava, a TICoT Technical Advisor at PEPFAR advised that there was a need to focus on adolescent friendly services as aging cohort of pediatric to adolescent patients grows.
“We also need to maximize the role of lay and professional health care workers in pediatric HIV and enabling them to build relevant skills and knowledge, combining attention to clinical issues with child-/adolescent-friendly ways of working,” she added