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World AIDS Day: HIV positive pregnant women and children must get treatment, says UNICEF

A health worker holds ARV medications and a glass of water in her hands at a child care centre in Tondo, a neighbourhood of Manila, the capital. Behind her, an HIV-positive child sits with a caregiver.

Bangkok, 30 November 2012 – New HIV infections in children are down, but reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation requires treating more pregnant women and children living with HIV, UNICEF said today.

Thanks to remarkable levels of global commitment, there has been a 24% reduction in new HIV infections in children worldwide – from 430,000 in 2009 to 330,000 in 2011. And, as of December 2011, over 100,000 more children with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment compared to 2010.

Despite these gains, less than one-third of children and pregnant women with HIV are receiving the antiretroviral treatment they need, as opposed to the global average of 54% for adults overall, making the most vulnerable in society also less likely to receive life-saving treatments.

“It is simply wrong that adults are twice as likely as children to receive the treatment they need,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “By definition, an AIDS-free generation depends on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable from HIV infection.  We must do still more to help mothers and children who live with HIV be able to live free from AIDS.  We must rededicate ourselves to boosting the number of pregnant women and children being tested and treated through basic antenatal and child health programmes.”

While high-income countries have long maintained near-universal coverage of antiretroviral medicines for pregnant women, in low- and middle-income countries, coverage required to prevent mother-to-child transmission only reached 57%, with reported coverage in Asia substantially lower at just 18%.

While the percentages of HIV-infected pregnant women remains low in Asia and the Pacific, the sheer size of the region’s population – some 69 million pregnancies occur annually – demands greater attention and action.

Treatment provided to HIV-positive pregnant women, can keep them alive and well and prevent their babies from acquiring HIV during pregnancy, delivery and the breastfeeding period. Treatment can also prevent sexual transmission from an HIV-positive woman to an HIV-negative partner.

Working to end new HIV infections among children by 2015 and to keep their mothers alive is a key element of UNICEF’s overall commitment to child survival under the global movement, “A Promise Renewed.”

UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

Follow @UnicefAsiaPac on Twitter.

For more information, please contact:
Chris de Bono, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific Regional Office, +662-356-9406,

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, +662-356-9407,




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