Children and Aids
The Third Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS, released on World Aids Day 2008, shows some promising trends in meeting the needs of women and children living with HIV, particularly across Africa. With a nod to strong political commitment and leadership, strong funding commitments, enabling policies and the adoption of innovations in service delivery, the strongest results show up in the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV.
Children are the missing face of Aids
The 24 countries of West and Central Africa is the second hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic,with one third of the global burden of HIV/AIDS. There is a disparity in prevalence from one country to another, ranging from 6.3% in Central African Republic to less than 1% in Mauritania and Niger.
The region has the world’s lowest social and human development indicators, other factors that could fuel the epidemics include the predominance of armed conflict and post-conflict situations, gender based sexual violence, persistence of population migration increasing number of child trafficking and child prostitution, rapid urbanization, high youth unemployment rates, environmental degradation and extreme poverty.
A rapid feminization of the epidemic is observed in WCAR. Young women aged 15-24 years have three times the HIV prevalence rates of young men in the same age group, respectively 7% and 2.3% in 2007. One quarter of the world’s women living with AIDS is from West and Central Africa.
P1: Preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT)
A small but increasing number of women are getting screened for diagnosis and treatment. This Third Stocktaking Report since the Unite for Children,Unite against AIDS initiative was launched in 2005,examines data on progress, emerging evidence, and current knowledge and practice for children as they relate to four programme areas known as the ‘Four Ps’: preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, providing paediatric HIV care and treatment, preventing infection among adolescents and young people, and protecting and supporting children affected by HIV and AIDS.
P2: Providing paediatric treatment and care
Cotrimoxazole preventive therapy coverage is still very low in the region. UNITAID project is operational in 3 countries: Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroun and Burkina-Faso where significant improvements are foreseen in the strengthening of the health system. Two additional countries, Nigeria and Central Africa Republic will be initiating their planning process.
Despite progress, countries contributing to the largest share of pediatric infections are currently lagging behind (Nigeria: 7%, DRC: 9%, Côte d’Ivoire: 12%, Chad: 1%)
P3: Preventing infection among adolescents and young people
UNICEF’s role has been especially important for out-of-school children and adolescents and for finding ways to reach them, such as putting up information booths in marketplaces and identifying key places to share information in the community. Strategies on risk mapping and targeting the most at risk and vulnerable adolescents are under development in Cameroun, Congo, the Democratic republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.
As a result, comprehensive knowledge on HIV prevention among young people 15-24 years old has increased, reaching 21% Nigeria, 34% in Cameroun, 44% in Ghana, 57% in Togo and 67% in Senegal.
UNICEF also works to strengthen the capacity of health services to provide treatment for sexually transmitted disease, HIV counseling and testing and the management of sexual abuse, including rape of women and girls.
UNICEF endeavors to ensure that conflict, fragile and post-conflict countries include HIV/AIDS and gender violence programs in their response plan.
P4: Protecting and Supporting Children Affected by AIDS
A number of countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burkina-Faso, Sierra-Leone and Côte d’Ivoire are showing good national-level leadership among partners. For example in DRC, beneficiaries from the support programme were 30,331 in 2006 and are 51,533 in 2007, and 37% of identified children affected by AIDS have been integrated into primary school at no cost to their families. In Burkina Faso, 47,225 children affected by AIDS and their families benefited from a package of services including food, school supplies and health care. In addition, there is an increasing national leadership for children affected by AIDS.
UNICEF @ ICASA 2008