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More action needed to reduce impact of HIV and AIDS on children in East Asia and Pacific

© UNICEF

3 April 2008, Bangkok – The number of children living with HIV and AIDS who receive antiretroviral treatment (ART) in East Asia and Pacific increased by nearly forty per cent between 2005-2006, according to the latest data contained in a newly released UNICEF report.

More countries have national programmes in place to prevent mothers from passing HIV on to their newborns, more treatment, protection, and care services are available and a growing number of vulnerable children have access to education and social protection according to the UNICEF Second Stocktaking Report on HIV and AIDS, released globally today.
 
An estimated 50,000 children under the age of 15 in East Asia and the Pacific are currently living with HIV or AIDS, with nearly 10,000 children – or 20 per cent of the total – receiving antiretroviral treatment, 4,000 more than in 2005.

The new data was released at the East Asia and Pacific Regional Partnership Forum on Children and HIV. The three-day meeting, which ended yesterday, brought together 150 delegates from governments, international, regional and national organizations from 19 countries in the region to review the progress made since the 2006 Hanoi Regional Consultation on Children and AIDS and the Hanoi Call to Action. This Call, which commits leaders to put children at the centre of the HIV response, was endorsed by ASEAN Heads of State and Government at their 12th Summit Special Session on HIV and AIDS in the Philippines in 2007. 

“In many countries, we now have better analyses of the situation; we have better policies and guidelines in place; and we are better able to reach those children most at risk, “said Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and Pacific. “But we still have much to do.  Service coverage remains inadequate and prevention, treatment and care have not yet translated effectively into strong coordination between health, education, judicial and social welfare systems. “

In some countries in the region the epidemic is still on the rise. In Viet Nam, the estimated number of people living with HIV more than doubled between 2001 and 2005 from 120,000 to 260,000, while Indonesia has the fastest growing epidemic in the region, with many new infections amongst young people.  The number of women infected is also growing: 29 per cent of all new infections in Asia are among females.

© UNICEF/Y. Rattasarn
Anand Panyarachun is delivering his speech at the East Asia and Pacific Regional Partnership Forum on Children and HIV.

H.E. Anand Panyarachun, former Prime Minister of Thailand and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, reminded delegates during a keynote address that it had taken the highest political leadership in Thailand to mount a successful national programme to address HIV and AIDS and tackle stigma and discrimination.

With almost 20 per cent more new infections in East Asia in 2007 than in 2001, he warned that there is never room for complacency. “The challenge we face now both in Thailand and elsewhere is how to sustain the commitment made and the momentum generated over recent years,” he said. “It is clear that as the AIDS epidemic grows and matures, the number of children affected will increase.  A child-centered approach to AIDS is vital and this calls for strong policy measures and programmes to protect children from multiple vulnerabilities and the likelihood of them repeating their parent’s journey and becoming the next generation of those most at risk of HIV.

The Children and AIDS Second Stocktaking Report measures progress since the 2005 launch of UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign against four primary targets:

• Preventing Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT)
Many countries have made substantial progress towards preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with more than 100 countries now having national PMTCT programmes in place.  Of the estimated 1.5 million HIV positive women who gave birth in 2006 in low and middle income countries, 23 per cent were treated with specific anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission.  This represents a 60 per cent increase in the number over 2005.

Overall in East Asia and Pacific, countries are not on track to meet the goal to increase PMTCT coverage to 80 per cent by 2010, with regional coverage now standing at 30 per cent. So far, only Thailand, Fiji and Malaysia have already exceeded the target. 

• Provide Paediatric Treatment of HIV
Access to paediatric care and treatment has improved as a result of dramatic price reductions in antiretroviral drugs.  In 2006, an estimated 127,300 children globally received treatment, a 70 per cent increase from the 2005 figure of 75,000. 

In East Asia and Pacific, expanding access to paediatric treatment to almost 10,000 children has resulted in more children living beyond their first birthday.  For example,   93.5 per cent of children in Cambodia, 96 per cent in Papua New Guinea and 93 per cent in Viet Nam are known to be alive after 12 months of beginning antiretroviral therapy in 2007. Cambodia in particular has had remarkable success in establishing a national system for paediatric HIV services, which now reaches an estimated 70 per cent of children in need with HIV care and treatment.

• Preventing infection among adolescents and young people
In a number of countries, there has been a notable decline in HIV prevalence amongst young people and more are going for HIV testing and counselling. In more than 70 countries surveyed, the number of people using these services increased from an estimated 40 million in 2001 to 16.5 million in 2005.

Yet young people aged between 15-24 years old in East Asia and Pacific still accounted for 40 percent of all new infections and their knowledge on how to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS remains low.

• Protect and support children affected by HIV and AIDS
The estimated 1.5 million children in Asia and the Pacific affected by HIV and AIDS continue to face stigma and discrimination and in many countries are still denied access to basic services. Yet a number of initiatives are underway to address their grievances and the social inequality they suffer.  In Papua New Guinea, a social protection cash transfer scheme is being initiated, in China, the Government has expanded equal access to welfare, education and health services for children affected by AIDS and in Cambodia, the Government has finalised a National Plan of Action to protect the country’s estimated 1.7 million orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by AIDS.

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Note to Editor
In 2005, UNICEF in partnership with UNAIDS launched the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign that seeks to build an international alliance of Governments, civil society organizations and non government organizations to ensure that the next generation of children is AIDS-free.

For more information:
Shantha Bloemen: UNICEF Bangkok, +66 2 356 9407 or +66 1 8906 0813, sbloemen@unicef.org
Tani Ruiz: UNICEF Bangkok, +66 2 356 9409, truiz@unicef.org
UNICEF Regional weblink: http://www.unicef.org/eapro
UNICEF campaign weblink: http://www.uniteforchildren.org/

 

 

 
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