Good signs for HIV treatment for children in East Africa

FACES kids club
Over 90% of the world’s 3.4 million children living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa, where healthcare resources are limited. It’s crucial that these children get access to life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and stick with it over time. Few programs have been able to look at children’s ability to stay with their drug treatment plans over the long term.

New research from a large team looks at children’s ability to maintain ART consistently through 4 programs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The study of more than 3,000 children found that adherence was extremely high, averaging above 90% through all the years of follow-up. Children who had been receiving ART for a longer period of time had higher rates of adherence. They also found that children visiting sites that saw large volumes of patients were more consistently sticking with treatment compared to those seen at smaller facilities.

Some groups may be more prone to difficulty. For the one program that had information about whether children were orphans, they found that being an orphan at the start of treatment was associated with lower adherence. Younger children were better at staying with treatment, highlighting challenges in maintaining that trend for adolescents.

Although the rate of keeping children in effective treatment appears to be very good, it’s important to continue to measure and improve ART adherence. The researchers also point out the urgent need for accurate measurement of how well children are sticking with treatment.