Leaving no child behind: best practices and lessons learned from the ACT initiative

Leave no child behind
Johanna Theunissen, Communications Officer, Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation/SHARE staff

The Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative was a public-private partnership that expanded pediatric HIV services in nine sub-Saharan African countries from 2014-2016, providing treatment to more than 560,000 children living with HIV. The ACT Initiative was implemented by more than 100 partners in a significant effort to fill gaps in case finding and treatment. 

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Bright and early this morning, nine speakers and more than 70 participants from international development organizations, donor agencies, and academia gathered at AIDS 2018 at a session to discuss best practices and lessons learned from the ACT Initiative, reflecting how we can sustain and continue to accelerate progress in reaching children and adolescents living with HIV.

The speakers, who were among the authors of several articles in a new JAIDS supplement reflecting on the ACT initiative, presented on topics including an examination of data revealing pediatric HIV treatment gaps, identification and linkage strategies, the need to strengthen services for HIV-exposed infants, and family-centered differentiated service delivery.

Participants asked thoughtful questions and engaged in lively discussion with the panel of speakers, which is especially remarkable considering the 7:00 a.m. start time. This included reflection on challenges with case identification and the need for countries to strategically position point of care diagnostics. In terms of maternal retesting, the group concluded that there needs to be careful consideration of country-specific disease burdens and resource availability in order to balance convenience for women, the capacity of health care workers, and effectiveness. Male partners should also be targeted, as unknown partner status is one of the highest risk factors for HIV infection.

In response to a question on the opportunities and challenges due to the relatively short-term duration of the ACT Initiative, Lauren Marks of PEPFAR quipped, “Nothing forces people into action like a deadline!” She added that timelines do help promote efficiency and noted that PEPFAR and CIFF – which funded and coordinated the ACT Initiative – continue their partnership for improved child and adolescent services.

Interested in learning more? Access the newly-released special JAIDS supplement featuring 11 articles highlighting lessons and best practices from the ACT Initiative which can be applied to help improve pediatric HIV care globally. Developed by Baylor College of Medicine Children’s Foundation Malawi with USAID funding, the supplement is available online here.

You will find all the session presentations here and you can listen to the audio recording below (stream the recording by clicking on the play icon, or download it by clicking on the three vertical dots on the right). 

 

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