The PATA 2017 Continental Summit ‘Towards an Aids Free Africa – Delivering on the Frontline’, will host approximately 200 delegates including doctors, nurses, counsellors, ministry of health officials, policy-makers, academics and donors between 23 and 25 October in Johannesburg, South Africa. There will be 50 health facility teams present from 15 sub-Saharan countries.
For many of these countries, HIV infection rates are not as high as they were at the height of the HIV epidemic yet adolescents and children are still at high risk of infection. Those who are already infected need to be cared for adequately. It is because of this that commitment to providing adolescent- and child-friendly services has not wavered. In fact, a Paediatric – Adolescent Treatment Africa (PATA) summit has never been so relevant.
It was in 2001 in South Africa, during a rapidly growing HIV epidemic resulting in high paediatric HIV infection rates – with an under-resourced healthcare system unable to respond – that the Kidzpositive Family Fund (KFF) was established. Kidzpositive was aimed at establishing a service dedicated solely to the care of children with HIV/AIDS, with the acknowledgment that medical care alone would not be enough to support HIV-affected families. At the time, only one in every 20 HIV-positive children in sub-Saharan Africa was receiving appropriate HIV/AIDS medical care.
Founded by paediatrician, Dr Paul Roux, and a multi-disciplinary group of health professionals from Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), in Cape Town, South Africa, Kidzpositive began offering dedicated treatment, care and support for children living with HIV/AIDS. In partnership, Dr Paul Roux and One to One Children’s Fund Chairman, David Altschuler, initiated an antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme in May 2002, providing treatment to 250 children and 100 mothers before the government roll-out of ART in 2004. This was part of a holistic, family-based approach.
Over 90% of the children enrolled in the Kidzpositive ART programme responded positively to treatment. Given the success of the ART programme, Kidzpositive rolled out ART to thousands more children and became the learning ground for paediatric HIV health facility teams from South Africa and across the African region to visit and learn.
Seeing this learning in action inspired the birth of PATA as a knowledge-sharing network of multi-disciplinary paediatric HIV health facility teams.
PATA programmes, arising from the gaps identified during PATA Forums, continue to grow and build upon the foundation and methodology of PATA Forums.
The PATA 2017 Continental Summit comes 12 years after the first forum and marks the 10th anniversary of PATA’s official establishment as a registered NGO.
“[PATA] gives health providers at the frontline a space to come together in a global forum – health providers who may not often have the opportunity to travel, engage and be exposed to linking and learning on this scale. The PATA forums, continentally, regionally and locally, are also a chance to acknowledge and recognise the incredible work that these health providers do at the frontline in making HIV services more adolescent- and child-friendly,” explains PATA’s Executive Director, Luann Hatane.
These PATA spaces and opportunities for engagement have grown significantly, with a large network of over 350 health providers that continues to expand. With the increasing use of technology, the way that the PATA Network communicates and interacts has also evolved to include virtual spaces such as Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and Whatsapp.
“It is all about creating and maintaining connections in a way that gathers momentum – something we have witnessed firsthand over the years,” Hatane adds.
However, it’s not just about expanding outwards – it’s also about bringing together global experience, guidance, challenges and barriers into a shared space as an opportunity to go deeper. By using these forums to reflect, PATA and its partners are able to document Promising Practices and link and learn in a unique and beneficial way.
Hatane explains that the value of these unique spaces is that experience within the region shared through south-to-south learning exchange is being leveraged by implementers and policy makers to translate policy into practice and practice into policy.
With the 2017 PATA Continental Summit set to focus on Find, Treat and Care along the HIV continuum and with delegates attending from across the globe, this is a critical opportunity for collaboration while recognising health providers working towards an AIDS free Africa, delivering on the frontline – an opportunity that would not be possible without the PATA platform.