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UNICEF says 1.1m new HIV infections averted due to access to treatment


By Sadiya hamza

United Nations- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said an estimated 1.1 million HIV infections among children under 15 had been averted.

It, however, said disparity in access to treatment was hampering progress toward reaching a global goal of reducing new infections in children by 90 per cent.

This is contained in a statement issued on Friday in New York by UNICEF.

It stated that new cases of HIV infections declined by more than 50 per cent between 2005 and 2013 as a result of expanding the access of millions of pregnant women living with HIV to services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission

It further stated that those services included lifelong HIV treatment that markedly reduces the transmission of the virus to babies and kept their mothers alive and well.

The statement quoted UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake as saying” If we can avert 1.1 million new HIV infections in children, we can protect every child from HIV – but only if we reach every child,,

”We must close the gap and invest more in reaching every mother, every newborn, every child and every adolescent with HIV prevention and treatment programmes that can save and improve their lives.”

The agency stressed that the global goal of reducing new HIV infections in children by 90 per cent between 2009 and 2015 is still out of reach.

In 2013, it said, only 67 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in all low- and middle-income countries received the most effective antiretroviral medicines for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

Among people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, adults were much more likely than children to get antiretroviral therapy, UNICEF noted.

In 2013, 37 per cent of adults aged 15 and older received treatment, compared with only 23 per cent of children aged 0 to 14 – or less than one in four.

The sharpest declines in new HIV infections among children, it added, took place between 2009 and 2013 in eight African countries.

They are Malawi, 67 per cent; Ethiopia , 57 per cent; Zimbabwe, 57 per cent; Botswana, 57 per cent; Namibia, 57 per cent; Mozambique 57 per cent; South Africa, 52 per cent and Ghana, 50 per cent.

In addition, the agency emphasised that AIDS mortality trends for adolescents were also of significant concern.

While all other age groups had experienced a decline of nearly 40 per cent in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2013, it stated that adolescents aged 10 to 19 are the only age group in which AIDS-related deaths were not decreasing.

UNICEF’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS provides the most recent analysis of global data on children and adolescents from birth to 19 years of age.

World AIDS Day, celebrated annually on Dec. 1, was launched in 1988 and was the first-ever global health day.(NAN)

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