The enormity of the AIDS epidemic’s impact on children in the developing world cannot be ignored.

Only a few years ago, most people involved with global health initiatives felt overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. Besides the numbers involved, people were faced with cultural barriers that made treatment difficult and prevention almost impossible.

Many advances have been made. However, there remains a lot of work to do. Many people remain out of touch with quality medical help while others lose access. A respectable pediatric AIDS foundation today must divide its efforts into three categories.

Children with AIDSOutreach

The need to find AIDS victims in order to treat them is great. Approximately two thirds of the people who need treatment for AIDS in these developing countries do not receive it. Until recently, that fraction which did receive treatment contained few children.

In fact, in 12 different countries, the number of children in treatment was virtually nil until health foundations intervened and heightened the amount of attention given to pediatric matters with regards to AIDS. The cost of treating children had previously been considered too prohibitive to justify expenses in that area.

Support

Finding victims of this illness is just the start. Many struggling countries do not even have the medical infrastructure to begin to address the problems of their adult population with AIDS. With regard to children with AIDS, some of these countries will need to build facilities from the ground up.

Fortunately, some of this work has already taken place. Not too many years ago, health organizations counted just 200 facilities equipped to deal with the millions of children living with AIDS in these areas. This number has increased to nearly 5,000 but many more facilities are needed in order to provide an adequate level of treatment for these children.

Equipment and services are separate matters. Since 2003, though, a Laboratory Services Team has been in existence to provide much more accurate and efficient analyses of adults and children. The biggest hurdle remains in getting pharmaceutical companies to commit effort to creating drugs formulated for child-sized victims.

Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission

That children come into the world without having experienced a day of life without suffering from AIDS is a bewildering tragedy. Not all mothers pass the AIDS virus in to their children in the womb but it happens frequently enough to have created a whole generation of children essentially born with the disease.

Unborn children can acquire the disease in the womb or during labor itself. Even those who survive gestation and labor without acquiring AIDS can contract it while breastfeeding later. Drug regimens are now available to prevent this transmission at all points in the child’s life.

Though much progress has been made, the need for more assistance remains urgent. Even with the great reduction in numbers, hundreds of thousands of children become newly infected every year. Hundreds of thousands also die each year. Coordination between health groups and renewed commitment from the developed world could create possibilities of eradicating this disease within a human lifetime.