A whole new challenge

We are starting to see more and more teenagers with so-called “congenital” HIV – those who were born to HIV-positive mothers and have thus been HIV-positive their entire lives. Young people who had the least amount of say in how they would be born, and the cross they would bear.

Children born in 1999 are now thirteen. The ARV roll-out programs only began earnestly in South Africa in 2003. PMTCT here started more or less at the same time. Let’s be clear – ARVs existed long before then, but our own government was in a state of denial, and for a long time only the wealthy in South Africa had unobstructed access to ARVs. In fact, routine HIV-testing of pregnant women wasn’t even prominent until a decade ago.

So, now we are starting to see tweens heading into virological failure. Viral counts of four million, six million, higher.

These are kids who managed to survive a childhood with a poor immune system, without help from ARVs. Then came the opportunity to take life-saving medicines in 2003. But there are only two regimens available at this point. And so, if you fail regimen 2, there is not other medication for you.

When will new ARVs be developed? I don’t know.

But it breaks me to see little girls and little boys barely entering their teenage years, just living long enough to learn how good life can be, only to waste away.

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