An estimated 500,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand, and rates are rising among young people.
Young people are becoming sexually active at an earlier age and many are not using protection. Significant numbers of young people also belong to especially high-risk groups, including injecting drug users, sex workers, and men who have sex with men.
More positively, rates of transmission of HIV from parents to children have been reduced to below 3 per cent from approximately 30 per cent 20 years ago when interventions were still largely unavailable. Rates of transmission have progressively declined over this period. This is largely due to the government’s impressive efforts to provide counseling, testing and anti-retroviral medicine (ARVs) to pregnant women nationwide, and commitment to provide more effective interventions as they became available. Nonetheless, at least one child still gets the HIV virus from his or her mother every day. Without access to ARVs, nearly 50 per cent of HIV-infected children would die before they are five years old. Currently there are approximately 14,000 children living with HIV in Thailand, the majority of them on treatment.
Vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities and migrants, often have less access to information and services for HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and frequently the quality of HIV care they receive is at lower levels than for other groups in the population. This compromises their chances for survival, and also impacts negatively on their quality of life and opportunities to develop to their full potential. UNICEF remains committed to promoting more equitable access to essential, life-saving interventions, and recent legislative changes have resulted in the government being more responsive to the needs of marginalized populations.
It is also important to address the quality of life of children affected by HIV/AIDS. Being HIV-positive is a frightening and painful experience for a young child. It is made even worse when a child is shunned by his or her family and/or community, excluded from school and cut off from friends. Because of the stigma surrounding the virus, children with HIV -- who are among those most in need of love and support -- are often those who receive the least.
About 14,000 children are living with HIV in Thailand, the majority of them on treatment