“As of 2013, of the estimated 35.3 million people worldwide living with HIV, approximately 3.2 million are children under 15 years of age, with 91 percent of these children residing in sub-Saharan Africa … further, nearly 700 children are newly infected with HIV every day.”
– Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. About Pediatric AIDS.
“Innocent as a child” is a phrase often heard in the United States. However, many children, particularly those in developing nations, do not have the luxury of such innocence. They must face harsh realities at young ages. One such harsh reality is pediatric HIV/AIDS, which continues to spread because of limited diagnosis and treatment options.
According to the AIDSinfo Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Pediatric HIV Infection, pediatric HIV/AIDS diagnosis occurs as early as the first 48 hours after birth in high-income countries, thanks to the wide use of and easy access to virologic assays. In contrast, many low-income countries have yet to implement these tools. A 2011 article in the New England Journal of Medicine explains:
“But in most HIV-exposed children in resource-limited settings, the infection can be diagnosed with serologic testing only after 15 to 18 months of age, when maternal antibodies have disappeared from the child's blood. Waiting until a child is 18 months old means that as many as half of infected children will die before their HIV status is even known.”
Even when pediatric HIV/AIDS is properly diagnosed, treatment options remain limited. Treatments are often inaccessible to patients due to geography and price. In the past 10 years, UNITAID and the Clinton Health Access Initiative have reduced the price of antiretroviral medications by more than 80% in developing nations, but many children still go without treatment. Those who can afford treatment receive less-than-ideal medication because antiretroviral therapy formulations are often not appropriate for pediatric populations. These medications can be unpalatable, have inaccurate dosing for children and be difficult to store and transport.
Because of limited diagnosis and treatment options, pediatric HIV/AIDS continues to spread. Using Precision Particle FabricationTM technology, Orbis Biosciences has developed a taste-masked, oral antiretroviral medication with a flexible dose format for the pediatric population. As more medications like ours become available, pediatric HIV/AIDS will no longer be the threat it is now. Children, especially those in developing nations, will be healthier, and the phrase “innocent as a child” will have meaning again.