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New York/Malawi, 1 December 2014: UNICEF: 1.1 million HIV infections in children averted since 2005

1 December 2014, NEW YORK / LILONGWE, Malawi – An estimated 1.1 million HIV infections among children under 15 have been averted, as new cases declined by over 50 per cent between 2005 and 2013, according to data released by UNICEF today on World AIDS Day.

In Malawi there has been a reduction of 67% in children under 15 between 2009 and 2013 – the highest across the continent of Africa.

This extraordinary progress is the result of expanding the access of millions of pregnant women living with HIV to services for the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT). These include lifelong HIV treatment that markedly reduces the transmission of the virus to babies and keeps their mothers alive and well.

“If we can avert 1.1 million new HIV infections in children, we can protect every child from HIV – but only if we reach every child,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We must close the gap, and invest more in reaching every mother, every newborn, every child and every adolescent with HIV prevention and treatment programmes that can save and improve their lives.”

The sharpest declines took place between 2009 and 2013 in eight African countries: Malawi (67%); Ethiopia (57%); Zimbabwe (57%); Botswana (57%); Namibia (57%); Mozambique (57%); South Africa (52%) and Ghana (50%).

But the global goal of reducing new HIV infections in children by 90 per cent between 2009 and 2015 is still out of reach. Only 67 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in all low- and middle-income countries received the most effective antiretroviral medicines for PMTCT in 2013. In Malawi, which pioneered putting all HIV+ pregnant and lactating women on life-long treatment, 76 per cent of HIV infected pregnant women are receiving effective treatment but reaching the 90% target may still be hard to reach.

Disparity in access to treatment is hampering progress. Among people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries, adults are much more likely than children to get antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 2013, 37 per cent of adults aged 15 and older received treatment, compared with only 23 per cent of children (aged 0-14) – or less than 1 in 4.

“Only 40 per cent of HIV infected Malawian children, 0 to 14 years, are receiving life-saving care and treatment. This is half of adult coverage; an unacceptable inequity. We must get all HIV exposed infants tested before their first birthday. Only then will we start seeing a sharp reduction in HIV-related deaths in children,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF Malawi Representative.”

AIDS mortality trends for adolescents are also of significant concern. While all other age groups have experienced a decline of nearly 40 per cent in AIDS-related deaths between 2005 and 2013, adolescents (aged 10-19) are the only age group in which AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing.

HIV is the number one reason for death among adolescents in Africa, and in Malawi an estimated 93,000 adolescents are today living with HIV. “Adolescents need access to HIV testing and counseling. If they are HIV negative, they need to be supported with evidence-based strategies that will help them stay HIV negative. If they are HIV positive, they need to be enrolled and retained in adolescent-friendly care and treatment services,” added Mdoe.

Prevention of HIV among adolescents is top on our agenda. We are currently working with government and NGOs to provide treatment, care and support for adolescents infected with HIV. Additionally, we are supporting the provision of post-test support services such as correct information and protective measures such as use of condoms for those adolescents who test positive to HIV.

UNICEF’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDSprovides the most recent analysis of global data on children and adolescents from birth to 19 years of age.

To download a copy of the data update, excel spreadsheets, tables and graphs, please visit: www.childrenandaids.org

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Zainah Liwanda, UNICEF Malawi, zliwanda@unicef.org or 0888 861 632

 

 

 
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