HIV-Positive Children Need Access To Pneumococcal Vaccines

Armen Hareyan's picture

HIV-positivechildren in developing countries need access to vaccines that can protectagainst "largely preventable" pneumococcal infections, Orin Levine,executive director of the GAVI Alliance's PneumoADIP program, and PaulZeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, write in a PhiladelphiaInquireropinion piece. According to Levine and Zeitz, the bacterium pneumococcus, whichis the leading cause of pneumonia, kills 1.6 million people annually, most ofwhom are children living in Africa and Asia. Childrenliving with HIV/AIDS are up to 40 times more vulnerable than other children toserious pneumococcal infections, such as pneumonia and meningitis, the authorswrite, adding that HIV-positive children are far more likely to die frompneumococcal disease, especially when they do not have access to appropriateantiretroviral drugs.

The U.S.and other wealthy countries have pledged to provide access to HIV/AIDSprevention, treatment and care to people worldwide by 2010, and they "shouldexpand that commitment" to pneumococcal vaccines for children and other"life-saving interventions," Levine and Zeitz write. They note thatthe provision of such immunizations could save the lives of 5.4 millionchildren by 2030.


GAVI -- in partnership with the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, Canada, Italy, Norway,Russia, the United Kingdomand others -- is establishing a $1.5 billion fund to pay for pneumococcalvaccinations worldwide, according to the authors. The "same kind ofcommitment" will be needed to finance vaccines for malaria andtuberculosis and will "one day help make" an effective HIV vaccineavailable in the developing world, they add. Until then, the pneumococcal vaccinewill "play a major role in protecting the world's children," theauthors write, concluding that the vaccine "offers real hope for curbingthe damage HIV can do to some veryvulnerable kids and for saving many lives in the years ahead"(Levine/Zeitz, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/13).

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