Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Free drugs for children with HIV

Updated: 2013-08-02 11:37
By Shan Juan ( China Daily)

China is working hard to provide children suffering from HIV/AIDS with the necessary drugs to keep the condition under control, allowing them to live otherwise normal lives, according to Zhao Yan, of the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention.

Zhao, who is deputy director of the center's AIDS treatment and care division, told China Daily that 3,400 children suffering from HIV/AIDS had received free antiretroviral treatment on the Chinese mainland by the end of 2012, and the program appears to be yielding good results.

"Efforts in early HIV detection and quality treatment among child or baby sufferers are being prioritized to ensure its effectiveness and that they can live as normal children," said Zhao.

There are 8,000 children living with HIV/AIDS nationwide, roughly 1.2 percent of the country's living sufferers. Most of the children have received HIV from their mothers, while others contracted it from blood transfusions.

Starting in 2005, the Chinese government began to supply pediatric dosage medications, including syrup and small-dosage tablets, for child sufferers, according to Zhao.

At the beginning, the drug supply relied mainly on donations from multinational pharmaceutical companies. Then, in 2011, the government began to import pediatric AIDS drugs, and now some of them are being produced within China.

"As long as local medical workers specializing in AIDS make request for pediatric AIDS treatment, the drugs will be prepared and distributed," she said.

According to some, though, there is still a way to go before all children suffering from HIV/AIDS have access to ART drugs in pediatric doses.

Li Lin is a teacher at a welfare institution called Dele Home - which translates as "Home for Virtue and Happiness" - in Nanning, in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. According to Li, more than 20 children in the institution are currently receiving antiretroviral therapy.

"The drug regimen includes three different kinds of drugs, but only one of them is provided in pediatric dosage," he said.

The other two medicines are provided in adult form. "We have to use adult drugs cut in half or even smaller," he said.

So far, there don't seem to have been any major issues with the make-do system, Li said. However, cutting adult-sized pills into smaller child-sized dozes is far from convenient, and the practice will work for some drugs but not all of them, raising the possibility of future complications in some cases.

"In theory, the medication for children is the same as that for adults, apart from the dosage," said Zhao.

"Some adult medication can be cut into pieces to give to the children, but some other medicines can't, for fear of impaired effectiveness," she said.

Good drug compliance is important in such treatments, since it helps avert drug resistance or potential side effects.

"The current medication is taken twice a day, and teachers here are supervising this every day to ensure our children keep to the drugs regime," said Li.

So far, the children from Dele seem to be doing well on their medication. According to Li, one child has been on ART medication for the past seven years, and now, at the age of 14, she is still doing well.

"She goes to school as a healthy child," said Li.

Nationwide, the oldest sufferer to have become infected through mother-to-child transmission will soon turn 20, thanks to the antiretroviral therapy, according to Zhao.

She also points to drugs that prevent the transmission of the illness from mother to child during pregnancy. Last year, more than 3,700 such women were given the treatment, free of charge, and nearly 93 percent of them gave birth to healthy babies, according to official statistics.

Hot Topics
A sailor from British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring tries to catch a mooring line to dock in the north side of the bund at Huangpu River in Shanghai December 10, 2013.