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HIV and AIDS

HIV parade
© UNICEF EAPRO/2013/Andy Brown
HIV activists join a parade at the ICAAP 11 AIDS Congress in Bangkok, supported by UNICEF

In East Asia and the Pacific we have an opportunity to bring up a new generation free of HIV infection and AIDS. This must begin with children.

HIV infection in children occurs most often during pregnancy, labour or during breastfeeding. Without effective treatment, more than half of all babies born with HIV will die before their second birthday. The risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV can be reduced to 2 to 5 per cent through a combination of prevention measures that include antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the expectant mother and her new born child, and safe infant feeding. 

However, the estimated number of children living with HIV in the region has recently doubled from 32,000 in 2000 to 64,000 in 2011.

Children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS are highly prone to exploitation. Many children experience physical harm such as sexual violence, as well as psychological harm from stigma and discrimination. Most of them struggle with limited access to education, health care, nutrition and social protection. Adolescents who are out of school, often living in unsafe places and complex situations, are more vulnerable to the risks of HIV and AIDS.

Greater attention to addressing HIV among children in the first and second decades of life is therefore critical to achieving an AIDS-free generation.  UNICEF supports governments and civil society in 16 countries in East Asia and the Pacific with HIV interventions, including the following.

Preventing transmission

Across the region, UNICEF works with partners to prevent and treat HIV infections among children and their mothers, to increase care and support for children orphaned by AIDS, and to reduce risks and vulnerability among adolescents.

We have played a critical role in strengthening national health and maternal and child health systems, in partnership with the World Health Organization, to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. As a result, most countries have committed to elimination and are switching to the simplest and most effective antiretroviral treatments.

UNICEF has supported many innovations in this area, including: same-day rapid HIV testing in Cambodia, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to ensure that people who get tested for HIV receive their results during the same visit; decentralized community testing in Myanmar to expand access to HIV testing services; and curriculum development and training on emergency HIV screening for women during labour in Timor-Leste.

UNICEF is also a managing partner of the Asia-Pacific Elimination of Parent-to-Child Transmission website, which measures progress, identifies gaps and service needs, and guides advocacy and fundraising towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Congenital Syphilis in the region by 2015.

Adolescents

UNICEF-supported research has helped to bridge knowledge gaps on adolescents who are most likely to be exposed to HIV or to transmit it. For example, in China, a UNICEF-supported survey resulted in a sexual and reproductive health/HIV hotline for young people. 

UNICEF also invited experts from the region to look at ways to improve data collection on adolescents and young key populations to better inform programmes and services for them. The first ever guidance note on ‘Methodologies for obtaining strategic information on young people at higher risk of HIV exposure’ is now available to guide collection and use of data on these age groups, who are usually omitted in national surveys.

Social protection

UNICEF-supported national and regional studies have contributed to the development of social protection for children affected by HIV and AIDS, particularly in ensuring their access to basic services including treatment for infected children, psycho-social care and reducing stigma and discrimination.

In China, UNICEF worked with the government to improve the response to communities affected by AIDS in five provinces, to increase the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and to improve care and treatment services for people with HIV.

 

 

 

 

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