In the past decade, there has been impressive success in prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission; however, we have not eliminated the problem of pediatric HIV infection, and much work remains to be done. Research in pediatric, adolescent and maternal HIV infection is often a neglected area at major scientific HIV conferences, yet is critically needed to achieve an AIDS-free generation.
While we have highly effective interventions to prevent transmission, implementation has been incomplete. Worldwide 1.8 million children were living with HIV and 150,000 were newly infected in 2015. Even with continued scale-up of preventive services, it is estimated that 2 million children will need antiretroviral treatment (ART) in 2020. Unfortunately, children are substantially less likely than adults to be diagnosed, engaged in care, and to access life-saving ART.
Treatment of pediatric HIV infection, particularly of infants and young children, remains complex and problematic. Rapid growth and organ system maturation and the emotional and cognitive changes that occur across the developmental spectrum from infancy through adolescence complicate drug development and administration. Adherence outcomes in children have been less than robust and mental health and behavioral issues are emerging as critical to understand and address to ensure long term treatment success.
Additionally, while fewer infected children are being born, there are increasing concerns about the long-term impact of in utero and postnatal exposures to antiretroviral drugs for those children who escape HIV. Currently an estimated 20% of all infants born in sub-Saharan Africa are HIV- and antiretroviral-exposed during pregnancy and the postnatal period.
Young people account for half of all new cases of HIV infection worldwide, with adolescent girls and young women disproportionately affected; in sub Saharan Africa in 2015, three out of four newly infected adolescents aged 15–19 years were girls. Adolescents living with HIV have been a particularly difficult group to reach; HIV was the leading cause of death among adolescents living in Africa and the second leading cause of death in adolescents globally in 2015. Uptake of HIV testing among adolescents has remained low, programs struggle to reach and retain adolescents in care, and adherence to treatment has special challenges.
The pediatric HIV cure agenda is an important emerging area of research. Early infant diagnosis is increasingly available globally, enabling earlier identification of infection, and new exciting opportunities to study acute infection in children and promising cure strategies.
The HIV Pediatrics Workshop is the only meeting entirely devoted to research in prevention and treatment of HIV infections in infants, children and adolescents, making it the premier forum for the world’s leading researchers. The Workshop has been held annually in conjunction with the International AIDS Conference since 2009, bringing together between 200-300 global experts in pediatric, adolescent and maternal HIV research each year.
The program includes oral abstract and poster presentations, state-of-the-art lectures from invited speakers and more informal and interactive fora including debates and panel discussions. A diverse community of participants includes investigators from the north and south and junior and senior investigators across a broad range of disciplines, who gather in an interactive setting that provides a platform for presentation and discussion of the latest developments in the field, encourages young investigators to engage in the field of pediatric/perinatal HIV research, and stimulates new research activities and collaborations.
We invite you to join us at the HIV Pediatrics workshop 2018 and look forward to welcoming you in Amsterdam.