Recent action has been taken on a resolution in Congress that will further the United States’ role in recognizing and ending the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in children around the world. Resolution 593, “Recognizing the importance of a continued commitment to ending pediatric AIDS and HIV worldwide,” was introduced to the House by Representative Barbara Lee, a Democratic and representative of California. The resolution brings to light the ubiquity of the AIDS disease and the prevalence of HIV in children living in disenfranchised parts of the world.
According to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, HIV affects children’s immune systems differently than adults due to their lack of development. Children living with HIV get sick more often than adults as well as more severely. Currently, half of the people living with the HIV virus (the pathogen that causes AIDS) worldwide are women and children. The disease is also the leading cause of death among women of childbearing age.
Additionally, over 400 children were born HIV positive each day in 2016. This number has been cut in more than half since 2001. Less than half of children with HIV will receive antiretroviral therapy, which is far below the percentage of adults who will receive treatment. This has led to 120,000 children dying of AIDS-related causes in 2016. Through this legislative action, the United States has recommitted to leading the world in ending the pediatric AIDS crisis and eliminating new pediatric HIV infections throughout the world.
The resolution noted the astounding achievements made in the last two decades thanks to the United States’ role in AIDS and HIV prevention and treatment. In 2016, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PERFAR) supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 11 million pregnant women. The plan also announced the Accelerating Children’s Treatment Initiatives that aimed to double the amount of treatment for children with HIV over the two years following its initiation in 2014.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as expected, as well as to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. There are currently 18 cosponsors of the resolution, including representative leaders from Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland. If it passes, it will be a vital part of the continued fight against pediatric AIDS worldwide.
– Melanie Snyder