HIV/AIDS and Children

The AIDS pandemic

 

The AIDS pandemic

© UNICEF/DR/2004/CAPPELLETTI

The AIDS Pandemic and Universal Access to Care


The HIV/AIDS epidemic is still affecting the population at a global level and it is estimated that in December 2005 around 40.3 million people (adults and children) were living with HIV. The region worst affected by the epidemic is sub-Saharan Africa, where 6.1% of adults live with HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean is still in second place with a prevalence (1) of 1.6%, with the island of Hispaniola as the epicentre of the epidemic in the region.


In many countries the epidemic is becoming feminised as a result of the increase in heterosexual transmission and women’s increased vulnerability. During the different stages of their lives and due to their gender status (which often implies low negotiating power) women are getting infected at a higher rate than males. Of the total number of adults who live with HIV (38 million), 17.5 million are women. The 2006 UNAIDS report states that in many countries marriage and fidelity are not enough to protect women, and high levels of sexual violence against women and girls have also been reported.


As a result of this process of feminisation of the AIDS epidemic, and the lack of access to prevention programmes, especially ones aimed at reducing vertical transmission, boys and girls also form part of the global statistics and it is estimated that around 2.3 million children under the age of 15 live with the AIDS virus.


Children also suffer the consequences when they are orphaned  ,when one or both their parents have died as a result of AIDS. About 18 million boys and girls have been orphaned because of the disease, and they live with the daily threats of an environment that does not offer them protection. Without the protection of their parents, they have had to deal with situations like poverty, separation from their siblings, lack of birth registration, low or no access to health and education services, as well as abusive situations and labour and sexual exploitation from a very early age.


 

In 2005 the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Committee, made up of member states, the United Nations co-sponsor organisations and civil society, approved a policy document that set out to intensify HIV prevention with the goal of achieving universal access to the prevention, treatment, and care for HIV.


For the Latin America and Caribbean region, the first regional consultation on universal access was held from 12 – 14 January 2006, organised by the horizontal South-South cooperation group and seven civil society networks with high-level participation of government and civil society groups. During this meeting, efforts to extend antiretroviral care and treatment programmes were highlighted, but the increase of new HIV infections and the high costs of medicines threaten the sustainability of coverage.
Prevention has lagged behind as a result of the stigma, the lack of financial commitment from countries, and insufficient work in rural areas and with marginalised groups.

It is believed that prevention strategies should be based on correct information about the situation of the epidemic, high-risk behaviours and recognition of the factors that put people at highest risk of HIV infection, like poverty, inequality due to gender, ethnic group, nationality, and social marginalisation.

As stated in the 2006 UNAIDS report, the path towards universal access will only be guaranteed by stepping up prevention work. The efforts that are focused on sustainable prevention are the only way to prevent the appearance of new cases of HIV/AIDS infection, which will add to the long list of people who need antiretroviral treatment.

(1) Prevalence. In epidemiology, the proportion of people who suffer from a disease in relation to the total population.

 

 

 

 

 

Universal Access

The first national consultation for universal access was held in the Dominican Republic in February 2006. The consensus on the part of government, non-governmental, and international development organisations was the need for a National Strategic Plan to guide the fight against AIDS for the 2005-2010 period. The fight against discrimination requires improved diffusion of Law 55-93, and the installation of mechanisms for its fulfilment.


The Road to Universal Access

In 2005, the G-8 and United Nations member states committed themselves to: "the Global Initiative progresses towards universal access, which comprises drawing up and implementing a package of prevention, care and treatment measures in the countries for 2010 for all people who need it, including an increase in resources..."


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