Children and HIV and AIDS

UNICEF in Action

© UNICEF/ HQ01-0259/Pirozzi
Youths wearing T-shirts bearing the national NGO 'loveLife' logo, a UNICEF-assisted initiative aimed primarily at young people and run with their active participation.

Across each of the ‘Four Ps’, UNICEF works to provide programmatic leadership, to advocate on behalf of children, to meet supply and resource needs, to build partnerships at all levels and to convene decision-makers and stakeholders, all in the hope of ensuring that children are no longer missing from national AIDS responses.

Children are no longer missing from the world’s response in the fight against the epidemic, and UNICEF has played an important role in this. However,there is still a lot of work to be done. In Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV and Paediatric treatment, care and support, while total coverage in many countries remains low, UNICEF has worked with national governments and other partners to establish a strong base for quick scale-up. UNICEF is working to ensure that primary prevention efforts prioritize adolescents and young people, particularly those who are most vulnerable to infection. For children affected by HIV and AIDS, UNICEF is working in partnership to develop social protection programmes and policies, to ensure their access to education and health services, and to assist communities and caregivers.

UNICEF’s work around Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS also includes advocacy, communication, and partnership activities to build a common language and shared sense of urgency for children affected by the epidemic. Efforts to mobilize and leverage resources have made possible widespread scale-up of responses. In the face of continual data challenges, UNICEF’s work to track and share knowledge has helped to establish baselines and ensure that children are being counted.

The Children and AIDS: Second Stocktaking Report, released in April 2008, found that the world's response to protect and support AIDS-affected children remains insufficient, but that critical changes for children affected by HIV and AIDS are afoot:

  • In low- and middle-income countries, the proportion of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral prophylaxis to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their children increased from 10 per cent in 2004 to 23 per cent in 2006.
  • In Eastern and Southern Africa, the proportion of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral prophylaxis for PMTCT increased from 11 per cent in 2004 to 31 per cent in 2006. 
  • By the end of 2006, 21 low- and middle-income countries were on track to meet the 80 per cent coverage target for PMTCT by 2010, up from only 11 countries in 2005.
  • In low- and middle-income countries, 127,300 HIV-positive children received antiretroviral treatment in 2006, compared with 75,000 in 2005 – an increase of 70 per cent.
  • Recent evidence suggests that HIV prevalence among pregnant women aged 15–24 attending antenatal clinics has declined since 2000–2001 in 11 of 15 countries with sufficient data. These include 8 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa.
  • Widespread efforts to extend protection, care and support to children affected by AIDS are under way in many countries, the gap in school enrolment rates between children who have lost both parents and other children is closing, and a growing number of vulnerable children have access to education and social protection.

There are, however, huge gaps in progress:

  • Globally, children under 15 accounted for 2.1 million of the estimated 33.2 million people living with HIV in 2007.
  • In 2007, some 420,000 children were newly infected with HIV and 290,000 died of AIDS. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 90 per cent of all children living with HIV.
  • Most children are infected with the virus during pregnancy and delivery or while breastfeeding. About 50 per cent of infants who get HIV from their mothers die before their second birthday.
  • In 2007, young people aged 15-24 accounted for about 40 per cent of new HIV infections among adults aged 15 years and up. In 2007, some 5.4 million young people aged 15-24 were living with HIV. Of these, 3.1 million are women.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated number of children under 18 orphaned by AIDS more than doubled between 2000 and 2007, currently reaching 12.1 million.




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