‘Children and AIDS: Fifth Stocktaking Report’
NEW YORK, USA, 30 November 2010 – Halfway through a 10-year campaign to reverse the spread of AIDS, UNICEF and its partners are making significant progress in preventing mothers from passing the disease onto their children.
“The majority of women are now getting anti-retroviral drugs to prevent transmission to newborns, but our goal now needs to be the elimination of vertical transmission so that fewer or no newborns will be infected,” said UNICEF Chief of HIV/AIDS Jimmy Kolker.
This goal has been achieved in the developed world, but in Africa, 1,000 babies acquire the virus every day. Globally, AIDS is the leading cause of death amongst women of childbearing age. “This is something we know how to stop, and we can stop,” said Mr. Kolker.
‘Children and AIDS: Fifth Stocktaking Report’ – released today in New York, on the eve of World AIDS Day 2010 – points to these and other key findings.
The report is dedicated to the memory of Thembi Ngubane, a leading South African advocate for prevention of child HIV/AIDS, who died last year from complications relating to the disease. It also marks the five-year point of the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign launched by UNICEF and partners in 2005 to put children at the centre of the international AIDS agenda.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of activity in all of those areas and some pretty remarkable progress over the last five years,” Mr. Kolker said.
Reaching the most vulnerable
UNICEF will continue to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable get help in preventing and treating AIDS.
Mr. Kolker noted that the organization is working on “cost-effective interventions that will actually reach these people, whose progress in the AIDS response is absolutely essential to achieving not just the Millennium Development Goals, but also to ensuring that we have an AIDS-free generation.”
One of the major obstacles facing UNICEF and its partners in the AIDS campaign is reaching rural women with the medicines they need to protect their babies from HIV, Executive Director Anthony Lake said during the launch of the new report at UNICEF headquarters.
“It's a complex challenge, but solutions can be quite simple,” he added, citing the ‘Mother-Baby Packs’ of anti-retroviral medications distributed in Kenya to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in areas not served by fixed health clinics.
“Together, we can begin writing the final chapter to the story of children and AIDS,” Mr. Lake asserted.
Adolescents living with HIV
Reaching adolescents is another challenging area of the AIDS campaign; 40 per cent of new adult HIV infections are among those aged 15 to 24. UNICEF has urged governments and leaders to make a greater effort to support and protect young peoples’ right to live free from HIV and AIDS.
But ‘Children and AIDS’ also highlights another group of adolescents – those who have literally grown up with the disease.
“Tens of thousands of children who were born HIV-positive because of mother-to-child transmission are reaching their teens, and there’s a whole new set of issues,” Mr. Kolker said, adding that these young people need medical and emotional support as they move from paediatric to adult care and navigate the normal hurdles of growing up.
“Something we can look forward to in 2011,” Mr. Kolker concluded, “is that the issue of HIV-positive adolescents will be even more on everyone’s agenda.”