HIV/AIDS in the region
At first glance the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in West & Central Africa might appear limited, especially when statistics are compared with East and Southern Africa. There are reasons, however, to believe that the situation in West & Central Africa has been underestimated. In fact, the region is now home to nearly 1/3 of the 25 million people in Sub Saharan Africa who are living with HIV. In addition, by the end of 2005 in West & Central Africa: 170,000 child deaths were due to AIDS ; 1.3 million children are in need of pediatric care through cotrimoxazole; 600,000 pregnant women were HIV+, yet only 1.3% of them received antiretroviral drugs to prevent the spread of HIV to their babies ; and, more than 20 million children were orphaned, 21% of whom were orphaned by AIDS.
Moreover, an exponential increase in the impact of the pandemic is to be expected in most countries of the region. Data on migration and sexual abuse in the region suggest that the situation will quickly worsen in the coming years. HIV/AIDS is threatening any progress in the region as it undermines efforts and gains in the areas of child survival, nutrition, education and protection.
In addition, there is growing evidence that the current degree of focus, and level of funding for children affected by HIV/AIDS worldwide and in West & Central Africa, are inadequate and incommensurate with the response that is needed today. Finally, unless there is a significant expansion and acceleration of programs and resources to address children affected and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS, the Millennium Development Goals will not be attained.
As in the rest of the world, children in West & Central Africa are at the tumultuous centre of the pandemic. Many children are watching their hopes, futures and dreams crumble as the adults around them – their parents, their teachers, caregivers and role models – succumb to AIDS. Consequently, UNICEF has increased its effort to respond to the pandemic and its impact on children in the region. Under the auspices of the Global Campaign, Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS, UNICEF is stepping up its work with governments and other partners in the region to put children high on the policy agenda. Through these efforts, national HIV/AIDS programs and policies can begin to address the missing face of the response – children.
UNICEF is building strong partnerships in the region to scale up strategic interventions in four key areas, known as the “4 Ps”: