Extra TVUN

HIV-Positive Adolescents Falling Through the Cracks

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 2 2013 (IPS) - Programmes targeting mother-to-child HIV transmission helped reduce new infections among children under 15 by 35 percent globally between 2009 and 2012, according to a new UNICEF report.

But despite gains in childhood prevention, the number of adolescent (10-19) AIDS-related deaths worldwide rose from 71,000 in 2005 to 110,000 in 2012, an increase of 50 percent.

In 2012, 62 percent of pregnant mothers in 22 high priority countries – 21 sub-Saharan Africa states and India – had access to antiretroviral drugs (ARV). New ARV treatments mean pregnant woman only have to take one pill every day, the same pill they can take for the rest of their lives.

“These days, even if a pregnant woman is living with HIV, it doesn’t mean her baby must have the same fate, and it doesn’t mean she can’t lead a healthy life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

Without ARV interventions, between 15-30 percent of babies will acquire HIV during pregnancy, labor or delivery and a further 5-20 percent will while breastfeeding.

Between 2005 and 2012, UNICEF estimates that effective mother-to-child initiatives helped prevent over 850,000 new infections among children in low and middle-income countries.

The report predicts that “without treatment, one-third of infants living with HIV will die before their first birthday and half will die before their second birthday.

As children mature and fall out of the scope of mother-child initiatives they can enter an ARV no-man’s land. In low- and middle-income countries the number of children on proper ARV regiments stood at only 34 percent in 2012, compared to 64 percent of adults in those same countries.

“It’s a matter of reaching the most vulnerable adolescents with effective programmes – urgently,” said Lake. “If high-impact interventions are scaled up using an integrated approach, we can halve the number of new infections among adolescents by 2020,”

Last year, full one third of children under 15 in countries with highest HIV burden had access to treatment at all.

According to the report, raising funding for adolescent HIV prevention – programmes that include making condoms available and “voluntary medical male circumcision” –   to $5.5, could reduce the number as few as 1.2 million by 2020.

In 2012, UNICEF estimated 2.1 million adolescents were infected with the HIV virus and in that year alone, “300,000 new HIV infections occurred among adolescents.”

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags