Rwanda/New York, 29 November 2013: More than 850,000 infants saved from HIV since 2005, but alarming trends seen among adolescents
UNICEF report shows that new infections among adolescents could be halved by 2020 with targeted and increased investment
NEW YORK/KIGALI, 29 November 2013 – A new report released today by UNICEF shows great progress has been made to prevent mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV, with more than 850,000 new childhood infections averted between 2005 and 2012 in low- and middle-income countries.
In Rwanda, the government is on track to achieve MDG 6 and virtual elimination of MTCT by 2015.
However, the new 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS raises the alarm on adolescents, citing the need for increased global and national efforts to address HIV and AIDS among this vulnerable age group.
AIDS-related deaths amongst adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 increased by 50 per cent between 2005 and 2012, rising from 71,000 to 110,000, in stark contrast to progress made in preventing mother-to-child transmission. There were approximately 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV in 2012 in the world.
By end of 2012 in Rwanda, approximately 180,000 adults (>15 years) and 27, 000 children (<15 years) are living with HIV and over 900 new HIV infections are estimated to occur in children.
With additional funding and increased investment in innovation, many of the challenges could be overcome, the report says.
“If high-impact interventions are scaled up using an integrated approach, we can halve the number of new infections among adolescents by 2020,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “It’s a matter of reaching the most vulnerable adolescents with effective programmes – urgently.”
High-impact interventions include condoms, antiretroviral treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, communications for behaviour change, and targeted approaches for key populations and marginalized groups. This is in addition to investments in other sectors such as education, social protection and welfare, and strengthening health systems.
In contrast to adolescents, progress has been impressive in the area of preventing new HIV infections among infants. Some 260,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2012, compared to 540,000 in 2005.
“This report reminds us that an AIDS-free generation is one in which all children are born free of HIV and remain so––from birth and throughout their lives––and it means access to treatment for all children living with HIV,” said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “It also reminds us that women’s health and well-being should be at the centre of the AIDS response. I have no doubt that we will achieve these goals.”
Thanks to new, simplified life-long antiretroviral treatment (known as Option B+), there is a greater opportunity to effectively treat women living with HIV and to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, and through breastfeeding. This treatment involves a daily one-pill regimen.
The new report also emphasizes that for an AIDS-free generation to become a reality, more children living with HIV should receive antiretroviral treatment.
“The government of Rwanda has demonstrated leadership in becoming a nation free of HIV/AIDs where, for example all HIV infected people and children are provided with antiretroviral therapy free of charge” said Ms. Noala Skinner, UNICEF Representative in Rwanda.
Innovations and new ways of working are making testing and treatment more accessible, effective and efficient. One example is the use of mobile phones in Zambia, Rwanda and Malawi to quickly deliver HIV test results.
The challenge now is to apply the knowledge that already exists, continue to focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized children and adolescents, and pursue new opportunities and innovations—while using finite resources as efficiently and effectively as possible.
“The world now has the experience and the tools to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Children should be the first to benefit from our successes in defeating HIV, and the last to suffer when we fall short,” said Lake.
The report will be available at www.childrenandaids.org
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