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HIV & TB Q4 2020

Childhood HIV TB: the silent killer

Image provided by: TB Alliance

Dr Christopher Kalila, Zambia MP

Global TB Caucus Co-Chair For Africa, National Chair Of The Zambia National Caucus

Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, and one of top 10 causes of death in children globally.

In 2018, a total of 1.12 million children contracted TB and 205,000 died.

Of 1.3 million children needing TB preventive therapy, only 27.5% gained access. Additionally, the threat brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak has seen the rapid erosion of crucial health programs – including TB.

Multilateral partnerships and innovation

Political leadership plays a critical role in fighting childhood TB by pushing for effective policies for TB response at national, regional and global levels, and much needed increases in financial resources. The Global TB Caucus (GTBC), a global network of Parliamentarians advancing the TB response, has partnered with Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) to strengthen the response in Africa.

As Members of Parliament it is our responsibility to help break down barriers of painful stigma and discrimination around TB in our constituencies.

EGPAF has been implementing paediatric TB programs in 12 countries in Africa under the UNITAID-funded Catalyzing Pediatric TB Innovations (CaP-TB) project, a five-year project to increase paediatric TB case detection, and treatment and preventive therapy (TPT). EGPAF also developed a paediatric TB budgeting tool, identifying existing gaps and solutions that parliamentarians can now use in their advocacy.

In over 15 national caucuses in Africa, GTBC members collaborate with civil society in budget monitoring, advocacy and sustained political pressure on governments to take tangible actions in the TB response. Countries such as Kenya have increased TB budgets, and countries like Zimbabwe have started implementing child-specific treatments and preventive therapy for children.

Combined efforts to protect our future

As Members of Parliament it is our responsibility to help break down barriers of painful stigma and discrimination around TB in our constituencies and create environments where patients – particularly parents and children living with HIV – are not afraid to seek adequate medical, psychosocial and economic services and support. It is unacceptable for us to allow more children to lose their lives and suffer needlessly from a preventable and curable disease that has been with us for centuries. Children are our future, and the effort must come from all of us – from all countries

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