JANSSEN Pharmaceutical Companies a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson has donated a sizable quantity of Third-line Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to Zimbabwe as part of its efforts to address the huge ARV drug resistance burden prevalent in children and young people.
Through a program dubbed the New Horizons Collaborative, an integrated approach to improving pediatric HIV care, a total of 5000 children from the SADC region are set to benefit. Through the program, Janseen provides Darunavir and Etravirine, including child friendly formulations, free of charge to eligible countries with the clinical capacity and willingness to address second and third-line pediatric HIV treatment
Officiating at the handover ceremony on behalf of Health and Child Care minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo, Permanent Secretary for health, Dr Agnes Mahomva said Zimbabwe was lagging behind in terms of advancing treatment to children and adolescents hence the need for collaborative efforts from partners and government.
As you might be aware, HIV and AIDS remains a global challenge with 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide while Zimbabwe has a prevalence of 13% this is according to the 2019 spectrum estimates, 1.3 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe and out of this figure, 91 000 are children between ages of zero to 14 years.
“While adults ART coverage is at 75% here in Zimbabwe, only 57.5% of children living with HIV are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). This according to our program data we have here in Zimbabwe and you can see the massive different there,” said Dr Mahomva.
She added that all children and adolescents living with HIV should access lifelong ART treatment as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommendations which says treat all who are HIV positive and Zimbabwe adopted and has been implementing is since 2016.
[pullquote]“With a treatment coverage of 57.5% in children, it is very clear that we are not doing a very good service to our children and we really do need to step up.[/pullquote]
“This kind of percentage must change as we move towards super-fast treatment targets for children of 95% ART coverage in line with the Start free, Stay free an AIDS free framework that we as Zimbabwe launched in 2016 we have really stick with that.”
Meanwhile, the New Horizons advancing pediatric HIV care initiative was launched in 2014 in response to the lack of availability of 2nd and 3rd line ART options for children in resource limited countries, Zimbabwe included.
“I know that the costs of 3rd line ARV regimen is not small it is huge, we all know that. I am told that the red book value from JnJ is about US$20,276.00 per year to treat an adolescent who has failed second ART therapy
“This is just for a pack of Darunavir and really it’s important to pay attention such figures. We are grateful therefore that the New Horizon will also support the health systems strengthening. The value will be US$1500 per month.”
Globally, there are approximately 1.8 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV, and almost 90% are living in sub-Saharan Africa with 77, 000 of those in Zimbabwe. However, even with the access to ART, rates of treatment success for children and adolescents are constantly lower than those for adults across Africa.
Johnson & Johnson senior director, global public health, Usheema Maraj De Villiers said children were more prone to developing drug resistance to first-line therapies with studies showing that most children failing ART have evidence of drug resistance hence the need to scale up treatment amongst these age groups.
“We have made tremendous progress in delivering HIV therapies to people in developing countries, overall, but we must do better for children.
“New Horizons is a collaborative initiative to build awareness, inspire action, and advance learning around the unmet needs of HIV treatment-experienced children and adolescents.”
She added that New Horizons Collaborative aim to improve and scale up ARV therapy for children and adolescents through increased awareness and research, health systems strengthening and improved access to HIV medicines though a donation program.
The New Horizon Collaborative includes a host of partners including Janseen, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM), Imperial Health Sciences (HIS), CIPHER-IAS, The Relevance Network Ltd, and Right to Care.