39th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board meeting, 6 December, 2016
The World Council of Churches-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, welcomes this important discussion on paediatric HIV treatment, care and support because it highlights one of the most significant gaps in the HIV response as well as the very ambitious global target, agreed at the high level meeting, to double the number of children on treatment by 2018.
A key aspect of addressing the paediatric gap will require giving greater attention to strengthening community engagement, including the faith community. Communities are often best situated to define and respond to the evolving needs of children throughout their lives. In many countries faith –based organisations have much experience of providing, economic and social support through both service delivery and outreach programmes. A key element of the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free initiative must be to ensure that community structures have sufficient human and financial resources and that linkages to facilities are strengthened.
As with adults, HIV-related stigma and discrimination are widespread against children and adolescents living with HIV and their parents. It can cause severe mental distress which prevents them from learning about their HIV status, adhering to treatment and from attending school and accessing other services. The WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance welcomes the commitment in the Political Declaration for the creation of safe and non-discriminatory learning environments, but calls on governments to work with all key stakeholders to ensure that this is achieved also in health facilities as well as more broadly in society as a whole. In addition, we call on UNAIDS to work with partners, including FBOs, to undertake additional research on the effects of stigma and discrimination on children and adolescents living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
To ensure that the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free Initiative is successful in doubling the number of children living with HIV on treatment by 2018, it will need to have a strong accountability framework. This will increase the likelihood that the needs of children affected by HIV will not be forgotten even if children themselves don’t have a voice in fora such as this.