More than half of the babies born with HIV/AIDS die before their first birthday and most will not make it until their fifth birthday. Because children’s immune system is not as resilient as that of adults, children rapidly progress from HIV infection to symptomatic AIDS.
Weight loss and wasting, related to severe malnutrition and/or opportunistic infections, are life-threatening AIDS-related complications. Mortality rates from severe malnutrition in paediatric wards are high, often up to 50%. Nutritional support is an often neglected but very important intervention for people living with HIV/AIDS, especially for young children.
It is estimated that at least two thirds of children living with the virus require urgent anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and all need specialised care. By end 2004, around 500 HIV-positive children under 15 were receiving ARV treatment in Mozambique, mainly at the Paediatric Day Hospital in Maputo, and through several NGOs in Maputo, Gaza, Sofala, Tete and Niassa.
UNICEF’s advocacy efforts have helped secure more attention for these children. The 2005 Ministry of Health operational plan for ARV treatment now includes children. The Ministry procured paediatric ARV treatments for 1,800 children. The planned number of children on ARV treatment for 2006 is 6,533, by 2007 the total number is planned to increase to 18,200.
UNICEF has been supporting children living with HIV/AIDS since 2002. Substantial technical, material and financial resources have been put towards:
For the near future, UNICEF plans to support: