Children have for too long constituted the hidden side of the response given to HIV and AIDS, and their needs are often neglected. And yet, the biggest hopes to get rid of the epidemic hinge on them.
With a national prevalence rate estimated at 4.7%, Côte d’Ivoire is the most affected country of West Africa where the HIV/AIDS pandemic rises since 1985, when the first cases were discovered. The impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is such that it represents the first cause of death for men and the second for women (the first being problems during pregnancy and childbirth).
540,000 Ivorian children are orphaned and vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS, 40,000 currently live with HIV, and over 16,000 are infected each year. Despite this alarming situation, only 4,000 children are under follow-up for HIV/AIDS and 2,000 benefit from Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy.
With two women infected for one man, the feminization of the infection is to be noted (6.4 for women against 2.9 for men). Among young pregnant women (15-24) living in Abidjan, HIV prevalence is estimated at 5.2%.
UNICEF seeks to provide support in situations during which children are affected by AIDS such as:
UNICEF approaches HIV/AIDS as a crosscutting issue. Hence, each programme incorporates the fight against HIV/AIDS in its activities and represents a key element of this fight
With the support of UNICEF, Côte d’Ivoire has been among the first countries to initiate the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV strategy. 90% of children’s contaminations are linked to this mode of transmission for which the use of ARV, associated with a child feeding strategy, could reduce the risks by 50%.
UNICEF supports activities through peer education as part of an overall approach for HIV/AIDS prevention among adolescents and youngsters. These information and awareness raising activities provided by people with the same age and the same origin, aim at developing knowledge of targeted groups, allowing them to become responsible of their health and to protect it. Psychosocial follow-up as well as prevention activities on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)/AIDS, voluntary HIV testing and counseling are also provided to adolescents.
A guide on AIDS entitled “Inform yourself to live better” has been produced by UNICEF in collaboration with youth organizations. Created by young people for young people, it has been elaborated to respond to the lack of sensitization tools for youth and to support trained peer educators’ actions. A series of trainings on how to use the guide has been organized by NGOs all over the country.
UNICEF also supports, through its implementing partners, income generating activities and medical, educational, legal, food and vocational assistance in favor of orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.