June 25, 2014 (PRNewswire) -- Today, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) welcomed health, government, and NGO experts at a policy roundtable. The event, held at the Pew Charitable Trusts, was a discussion on current advancements, investment opportunities, and future innovations in pediatric AIDS treatment.
Michael Gerson, op-ed columnist for The Washington Post and Policy Fellow at the ONE campaign, moderated the roundtable, and special guests included Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D., U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Rajiv Shah, M.D., Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Deborah Persaud, M.D. of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, who led the investigation that developed the first functional cure of HIV in two infants in Mississippi and California.
"If one group is stigmatized, everyone feels unsafe. Our partners and our patients feel unsafe. We need to approach the HIV epidemic as a human rights issue, and we can't wait 20 or 30 years for this to reverse. This stigma is a threat to public health," said Ambassador Deborah Birx, M.D.
She also addressed the need to take joint action to increase pediatric treatment access, share data and success stories across the global community so that countries that still suffer from high infection rates may learn from those who have made great strides in preventing and treating pediatric AIDS.
"The Mississippi baby case provided proof that a cure is possible. But we need more than one case, we need long term follow-up," said Deborah Persaud, M.D. "[The case] represented collaboration and investment in the field of pediatric AIDS treatment."
In addition to reflecting on the successes of the Mississippi baby case, Dr. Persaud examined how this work may inform the broader delivery of maternal and pediatric care in both the United States and around the globe.
The morning's panels also addressed programmatic investments to accelerate progress towards ending AIDS in children, and explored future innovations in pediatric AIDS prevention, treatment and cure research.
"We have made tremendous progress, but there are still major challenges ahead," said Charles Lyons, EGPAF president and CEO. "It's unacceptable that only a third of children living with HIV are getting treatment. There is an urgency that is missing. Knowing the status of more kids and finding the incentives for them to return to care will result in a dramatic uptake in the care and treatment of these children."
Other speakers included: Shaffiq Essajee, M.D., Clinton Health Access Initiative; Jose G Esparaza Bracho, M.D., Ph.D., University of Maryland; Lynne Mofenson, M.D., National Institute of Child Health; Douglas F. Nixon, M.D., Ph.D., George Washington University; Peter McDermott, Children's Investment Fund Foundation; and Gwynn Stevens, Ph.D., Cepheid.
Later this evening, EGPAF will celebrate 25 years of research and innovation to end pediatric AIDS by honoring Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi with its Congressional Global Champion Award at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 p.m.