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Adapting HIV services for pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, children, adolescents and families in resource‐constrained settings during the COVID‐19 pandemic
  • Published Date:

    September 2020

  • Source:
    J Int AIDS Soc. 23(9)
  • Language:
Filetype[PDF-266.74 KB]

  • Alternative Title:
    J Int AIDS Soc
  • Description:
    Introduction The COVID‐19 pandemic has impacted global health service delivery, including provision of HIV services. Countries with high HIV burden are balancing the need to minimize interactions with health facilities to reduce the risk of COVID‐19 transmission, while delivering uninterrupted essential HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. Many of these adaptations in resource‐constrained settings have not adequately accounted for the needs of pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, children and adolescents. We propose whole‐family, tailored programme adaptations along the HIV clinical continuum to protect the programmatic gains made in services. Discussion Essential HIV case‐finding services for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should be maintained and include maternal testing, diagnostic testing for infants exposed to HIV, index testing for children whose biological parents or siblings are living with HIV, as well as for children/adolescents presenting with symptoms concerning for HIV and comorbidities. HIV self‐testing for children two years of age and older should be supported with caregiver and provider education. Adaptations include bundling services in the same visit and providing testing outside of facilities to the extent possible to reduce exposure risk to COVID‐19. Virtual platforms can be used to identify vulnerable children at risk of HIV infection, abuse, harm or violence, and link them to necessary clinical and psychosocial support services. HIV treatment service adaptations for families should focus on family based differentiated service delivery models, including community‐based ART initiation and multi‐month ART dispensing. Viral load monitoring should not be a barrier to transitioning children and adolescents experiencing treatment failure to more effective ART regimens, and viral load monitoring for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children should be prioritized and bundled with other essential services. Conclusions Protecting pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, children and adolescents from acquiring SARS‐CoV‐2 while sustaining essential HIV services is an immense global health challenge. Tailored, family friendly programme adaptations for case‐finding, ART delivery and viral load monitoring for these populations have the potential to limit SARS‐CoV‐2 transmission while ensuring the continuity of life‐saving HIV case identification and treatment efforts.
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