‘Children and AIDS: Second stocktaking report’ cites progress made to date
By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 3 April 2008 – Important progress has been made in combating the spread of HIV since UNICEF – as a UNAIDS co-sponsoring agency – launched the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign in October 2005.
Released today, the ‘Children and AIDS: Second Stocktaking Report’ says efforts to reduce the rate of mother-to-child transmission have seen the most significant gains. In 2005, only 11 per cent of women living with HIV were getting drugs to prevent transmission. Now, 31 per cent are receiving treatment.
Advances in paediatric care have been equally dramatic. In 2005, only 70,000 children were getting antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), but in 2006, that number rose to 127,000 – a 70 per cent increase.
“That’s enormous progress,” said UNICEF Chief of HIV and AIDS Jimmy Kolker.
UNICEF and its partners have concentrated on solutions that don’t operate in a vacuum but strengthen national health systems, as well as harnessing community support. The strategy is paying off.
“There is attention to the issue. It’s in 100 countries’ national plans and there’s a sense that this is something that can be scaled up on a nationwide basis, even to hard-to-reach groups, even in the poorest countries,” said Mr. Kolker.
Millions of children’s lives have been irrevocably altered by HIV and AIDS. In 2007, an estimated 2.1 million children were living with HIV and 15 million children had lost one or both parents to the virus. The report on children and AIDS, co-authored by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS, says the biggest challenge over the next two years is to prevent new infections.
“The problem is that so many people – especially young people – are continuing to get infected. The behaviour-change messages are being honed and focused on vulnerable groups, but the progress there hasn’t been as encouraging as it should be. There’s still hundreds of thousands of new infections every year,” said Mr. Kolker.
By 2010, UNICEF and its partners aim to provide HIV-prevention services and ARVs for 80 per cent of women and children who need them, and to reduce the rate of HIV infection among young people by 25 per cent.
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