Dr Christine Musanhu, a technical officer for HIV/Aids treatment and care- WHO Tanzania made this observation at the climax of the World Aids Day, noting that WHO is working with the government on the project.
The flavoring renders the drug more palatable to children compared with current options that are bitter to taste or otherwise hard for children to ingest, she said, noting that treatment coverage among children living with HIV lags adult treatment coverage in most of sub-Saharan Africa.
The government has approved the new treatment guidelines that include introduction of a new drug formulation for children weighing under 20 kilograms, adopting new WHO global guidelines on treatment of HIV, she said.
“The advantage of this medicine is that it tastes better. You get viral suppression faster, it is easy to take, and chances of development of drug resistances are fewer,” she said.
“Children and youth are left behind when it comes to HIV treatment, so the introduction of the new formulation shows the government and stakeholders’ commitment to value the group,” she stated.
Once the country is fully satisfied with the introduction of new drugs based on WHO guidelines, efforts will be made to enable the target audience to access appropriate medications and services.
“In this regard, we continue to implement the relevant procedures in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TMDA). These procedures enable the drug to be registered in the country, assess the supply needs and train health workers who provide it to the beneficiaries,” she elaborated:
“We are also working with the government to find out amounts required, revising training packages, which is done in collaboration with partners. By early next year, the medicines will be ordered for children.”
“No one will be left in this. We want all groups to access the services so that we achieve the intended goal of eradicating HIV,” she said. The role of WHO in various countries including Tanzania is to monitor the effects of new drugs being developed, she affirmed.
“If there are no side effects, then that is a good thing. This shows that the drugs are good, if there are side effects, we fight to address them,” she asserted, noting that WHO also provides guidance in the fight against HIV and related diseases including sexual transmitted infections, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
“WHO has a guideline at the global level and makes sure it is translated at the national level, to be implemented and get results in the country,” the UN officials noted, citing the fact that the organisation has been working hard to provide information on health care planning and development programs.
On achieving the 90–90–90 targets (knowing of status, using ART and viral suppression), she said Tanzania is doing well on these targets, with 83 percent on status, 94 percent on using drugs, and 93 per cent on viral suppression. “We are now looking up to 95-95-95 goals,” she enthused.
On COVID-19, she said the WHO recommends that people living with HIV be given priority when it comes to receiving vaccines, to reduce chances of developing severe disease.
Nearly 90 percent of HIV-positive children worldwide and roughly two-thirds of all HIV-positive people live in sub-Saharan Africa. Massive efforts to roll out antiretroviral drugs have concentrated on adults, not children.
Children in Africa continue to die of AIDS at high rates. If untreated, AIDS kills 50 percent of children born with HIV before their second birthday.