2021

Understanding and Improving Viral Load Suppression in Children with HIV In Eastern and Southern Africa

In 2019 it was estimated that 1.2 million children (0-14) were living with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa, yet more than a half million of these children (504,000) were not receiving lifesaving treatment. Children with HIV need to achieve viral load suppression if they are to lead long and healthy lives. Population-based surveys in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe found that children on treatment fare worse in achieving viral load suppression compared to adults; 42 per cent vs 67 per cent, 39 per cent vs 84 per cent and 47 per cent vs 86 per cent respectively. Ending AIDS will not be possible without accelerating progress for children.

UNICEF, in collaboration with governments and partners, supported a mixed method study that included literature review, assessment of laboratory data in Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe and interviews with health workers and caregivers in Malawi to find out what is behind these low rates. The study found that one out of every three children who had a viral load test had not achieved viral load suppression. Support networks for caregivers and children improved adherence and made a difference towards outcome. The full report describes the methodology, key findings, challenges and proposes concrete recommendations to improve treatment outcomes for children with HIV. The accompanying advocacy brief summarizes the key findings and provides action-oriented next steps