Deep Bench: Lowering pediatric AIDS rates around the U.S. and world

(WZAW) -- December 1 marks World AIDS Day. This worldwide day of reflection is a time to evaluate the progress made to end AIDS in children and adolescents.

Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, joined the Deep Bench on Wednesday to talk about where progress has come over the past three decades. He said the United States has played a transformational leadership role in funding and driving a coordinated global effort to research the disease and treat people with HIV/AIDS.

"That started with President Bush, continued with President Obama, continues with President Trump," he said.

Stunning progress has been made through President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) since its creation more than 15 years ago. The program has reached millions of men, women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS, enabling more than 2.2 million babies to be born HIV-free to HIV-positive mothers.

"What the United states has been able to do with researsch, with public health professionals and with financial support has been to turn around the trajectory of the pandemic around the world," he added.

Lyons said that despite the significant progress, nearly 500 children are still infected with the virus every day primarily via mother-to-child transmission, and only 54% have access to the vital medications and services they need to stay healthy.

According to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, without treatment, half of HIV-infected infants will die before their second birthday. Just as troubling, deaths among adolescents living with HIV have doubled since 2000, despite a decade-long decline in AIDS-related deaths. AIDS is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death for this age group globally.

"It's essentially in control in the United States, even though we don't have have a cure or a vaccine."

In Wisconsin, Lyons said HIV rates are low.

"Even if the number of new cases in Wisconsin is in the hundreds or the low thousands in terms of people in Wisconsin with HIV, everyone... public health officials, doctors, communities have to vigilant that there isn't an increase," he explained.

The international community has committed to end new infections among children and create the first AIDS-free generation in more than three decades.

This World AIDS Day, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is calling on U.S. leaders to band together with the international community to create an AIDS-free generation. If we fail to demonstrate true leadership, control of this epidemic will remain out of reach.

For more information, please visit www.pedaids.org