Earlier this month, at an event co-hosted by the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama at the African Leaders Summit, several new steps towards advancing the President’s goal of an AIDS-free generation were announced. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) launched the Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative. ACT is a $200 million initiative ($150 million from PEPFAR and up to $50 million from CIFF) to double the number of children receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) across ten African countries over the next two years.
In 2013, only 24 percent of the 3.2 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV– 91 percent of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa –were receiving ART. Without ART, half of the children living with HIV will die before their second birthday, and 80 percent will die before their fifth birthday. The new initiative will make a significant impact by enabling 300,000 more children living with HIV to receive ART.
Ending pediatric AIDS will require broad-based engagement from the private, civil, and public sectors. One example of how the public has responded to the call for an AIDS-free generation was the recent announcement by the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and Gilead Sciences of their recent patent licensing agreement covering tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), a new medicine currently in Phase III studies. The agreement aims to fast-track the production of low-cost versions of TAF for low- and middle-income countries.
While TAF has not yet been approved for use, the MPP announcement reflects the importance of ensuring rapid access to new lower-dose HIV medicines for people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide – including children - and accelerating efforts to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
As the ACT initiative takes shape, we look forward to celebrating future milestones, and we congratulate PEPFAR and CIFF for taking this significant step!
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Lauren Smith is Policy Advisor to the Chief Technology Officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.