HIV / AIDS and children


What parliamentarians can do about HIV/AIDS



More developing countries show universal access to HIV/AIDS services is possible


Maputo, 6 October 2010 - Significant progress has been made in several low- and middle-income countries in increasing access to HIV/AIDS services, according to a new report released last week.

The report Towards Universal Access: Scaling up Priority HIV/AIDS Interventions in the Health Sector by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is the fourth annual report for tracking progress made in achieving the 2010 target of providing universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The report, which assessed progress of HIV/AIDS interventions implemented by  the health sector in 144 low- and middle-income countries in 2009, found that by the end of the year, 5.25 million people globally had access to HIV treatment, accounting for 36 per cent of those in need. This represents an increase of over 1.2 million people from December 2008, the largest increase in any single year.

Steady progress was seen in access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services. A record 53 per cent of pregnant women who needed PMTCT services received them globally in 2009. But still many pregnant women and their infants lacked access to these timely interventions.
Care for infants and children require highest attention. Global treatment coverage for HIV positive children was 28 per cent in 2009, a notable progress, but the rate is lower than the ART coverage for adults (36 per cent).  Also, only 15 per cent of children born to HIV-positive mothers were receiving appropriate infant diagnostics.

The report highlights that:

  • 15 countries, including Botswana, Guyana and South Africa, were able to provide more than 80 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women in need, the services and medicines to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission;

  • 14 countries, including Brazil, Namibia and Ukraine, provided HIV treatment to more than 80 per cent of the HIV-positive children in need;

  • Eight countries, including Cambodia, Cuba and Rwanda, have achieved universal access to antiretroviral treatment (ART) for adults.

Progress and challenges in Eastern and Southern Africa

In Eastern and Southern Africa, the region most severely affected by HIV, remarkable progress offers hope. HIV treatment coverage has increased from 32 per cent to 41 per cent in one year. And half of the pregnant women were able to access HIV testing and counselling in 2009.

Similarly, in Mozambique, the number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy has increased by 33 per cent during the same period. In 2009, over 170,000 people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in Mozambique, compared with less than 130,000 in 2008. The HIV prevalence rate among the general population is 11.5% per cent, according to the national HIV seroprevalence study (INSIDA).

Despite this promising progresses, challenges to scaling up HIV treatment persist, including funding shortages, limited human resources, and weak procurement and supply management systems for HIV drugs and diagnostics and other health systems bottlenecks.

Steps towards universal access beyond 2010

The report calls for a clear set of actions to be taken by the international community including: 

  • Renewing political and funding commitments to achieve universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care

  • Improving integration and linkages between HIV/AIDS and related services such as tuberculosis, maternal and child health, sexual health and harm reduction for drug users

  • Strengthening health systems to achieve broader public health outcomes

  • Taking bold measures to address legal and structural barriers that increase HIV vulnerability, particularly for most-at-risk populations.

This call to action is consistent with the key strategies proposed by a broad range of stakeholders for the new Global Health Sector Strategy for HIV/AIDS, 2011-2015. WHO is developing the strategy which is meant to guide the next phase of the health sector response to HIV/AIDS, once discussed and ratified by the World Health Assembly next year.

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