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Church-based group urges treatment access for children with HIV

An exhibition of children’s letters to pharmaceutical companies and governments is going on display at the United Nations in New York as part of a campaign by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and its partners to promote the treatment of children with HIV.

"If governments and pharmaceutical companies were to increase access to testing and provide appropriate paediatric treatment for children living with HIV, they could save thousands of lives," said Karen Plater of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, co-chairperson of the EAA’s HIV and AIDS strategy group.

The exhibition was opened on 19 November.

Through the ecumenical alliance’s Prescription for Life campaign, children from more than 14 countries wrote letters to pharmaceutical companies and government officials asking for greater efforts to be made in caring for more than two million children around the world living with HIV.

EAA said the letters urge simple and affordable diagnostic tests for infants that can be performed on the spot; increased antiretroviral treatment for all HIV-positive expectant mothers; and increased efforts by pharmaceutical companies and governments to find more appropriate and accessible treatments for children and infants.

The Geneva-based alliance noted that the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2009, spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere should have, including the right to health.

"Yet every year large numbers of infants die from AIDS-related illnesses without ever being diagnosed," it stated.

Other children die, the alliance said, because they do not have access to appropriate paediatric treatments and still more could have avoided contracting the virus if their mothers had access to the testing and treatment that could have prevented their children from contracting HIV.

The EAA is an international network of more than 50 churches and Christian organizations committed to joint action on critical issues facing the world.

1 December is World AIDS Day.

(c) Ecumenical News International