India now has a road map to deal with paediatric AIDS. The first national consultative meeting on Paediatric HIV/AIDS –held in New Delhi at the request from National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and facilitated by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) gave final touches to the road map. There were 50 participants representing various organizations including Government of India, NACO, IAP, UNICEF, WHO, Clinton Foundation, NARI and national and international experts from UNICEF and WHO.
At the inaugural function Dr. Cecilio Adorna, the India country representative for UNICEF, identified the gaps in the service for the paediatric HIV including lack of early diagnosis, lack of referral system. He stressed on the need of offering free ART to as many of the children with HIV as possible. Mr Adorna said “The tragedy is that we do not yet have a care package for children. Developing that package becomes the first task of this expert gathering.”
He also said that there has been very limited follow-up and diagnosis for HIV-exposed children, and very limited case finding in paediatric clinical services. Laboratory capacity, particularly with respect to early diagnosis and monitoring of HIV infection is extremely limited according to him.
Among the experts were Dr. Chewe Lou from UNICEF, Charlie Gilke and, Dr. Po Lin from WHO and Dr. Nitin Shah from Indian Association of Paediatricians (IAP).
Dr. Nitin Shah, the President of the IAP presented some stark statistics of Pediatric HIV in India and said “it is of utmost importance that we pick up the children infected with HIV early and treat them.” He also felt that the 15,000 strong IAP could lead and show the way in identifying what is doable in India for the cause of Paediatric HIV.
The Road Map addresses five important issues: (1) Management of babies perinatally exposed to HIV, (2) Antiretroviral therapy (3) Management of Opportunistic Infections (4) Training of health care workers including paediatricians(5) Adaptation of paediatric care in IMNCI.
Armed with this elaborate roadmap IAP will be undertaking training workshops for paediatricians in eight high risk states. The national meet was supported by UNICEF.
Recognizing “Paediatric AIDS has a special place” for IAP, the Academy had earlier constituted a National Task Force. Besides being a major killer paediatric AIDS also has tremendous social and cultural implications on the child’s growth, development and survival. Ninety per cent of the paediatric cases are due to vertical transmission from infected mother and fifty per cent of these cases are preventable.