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Affordable Treatment Available Soon for Children Living With HIV in Poor Countries

FILE - A five-year-old HIV-positive boy stands in the courtyard of the preschool he attends in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, Nov. 29, 2010.

Affordable treatment will soon be available for children living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries thanks to an agreement between the global health agency UNITAID and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

The pediatric treatment has been available in wealthy countries but out of reach for children in poor countries. A new agreement with two generic drug makers, Viatris and Macleods, will significantly lower the price.

UNITAID and CHAI plan to roll out the first anti-retroviral treatments specifically designed for children next year in six African countries — Benin, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

An estimated 1.7 million children globally live with HIV, but only half receive any treatment and 100,000 die every year.

UNITAID spokesman Herve Verhoosel said HIV is not suppressed for many of those children. That is due, in part, to the lack of availability of effective drugs that are properly adapted for them.

“Many children who are living with HIV have a poor response to treatment because they take anti-retroviral medication that are not correctly dosed or bitter to taste. … Now with this new drug ... it will be much, much easier and much, much less expensive,” he said, adding that even the youngest children will like the strawberry-flavored pills.

Under the new pricing agreement, the cost for the yearly pediatric HIV treatment will go from more than $480 per child to under $120 per child.