HIV and AIDS

Envisioning an AIDS-free generation where all children and their families are protected from HIV infection.

Kabiite Ajara (32 yrs) helps Nuriet (2 yrs 8 months) take her pediatric HIV medication in their home. Nuriet and Kabiite are both living with HIV and need to take their medication on a daily basis.
UNICEF/UNI211923/Schermbrucker

The challenge

In the global effort to end HIV and AIDS, children and adolescents continue to fall behind. New cases of infection still occur at birth, during breastfeeding and in adolescence; and not enough children and adolescents living with HIV have access to testing and life-saving treatment. As a result, hundreds die every day.

“While there has been promising progress in the HIV response, children continue to be affected by the epidemic”

Most new infections in children and adolescents occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the epicenter of HIV and AIDS. To break the cycle of new infections and deaths, children, their mothers and adolescents must be tested for HIV and linked to treatment. A top priority for UNICEF is addressing structural factors – poverty, lack of education and violence – that put people, especially adolescent girls and young women, at risk of acquiring HIV.

 


 

2.8 million children and adolescents were living with HIV in 2018 — nearly 9 out of 10 in sub-Saharan Africa

Number of children and adolescents aged 0-19 living with HIV, by country, 2018

Source: UNAIDS 2019 estimates.

Notes: This map is not to scale. It does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or area or the delimitation of any frontiers. Lower and upper estimates refer to the confidence intervals.


 

While the progress in HIV response has been promising, children continue to be affected by the epidemic. These are some of the statistics around HIV infections among children and adolescents in 2018:

  • 2.8 million children and adolescents are living with HIV
  • Only 54 per cent of infected children and adolescents are on HIV treatment as compared to 82 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV
  • 360,000 new infections were estimated among children and adolescents
  • 120,000 children and adolescents died from AIDS-related causes


Read UNICEF’s latest report

Children, HIV and AIDS: Global and regional snapshots


Treatment and prevention for children and adolescents are the two areas of UNICEF’s work to stop HIV infections and AIDS deaths. Making sustainable gains in this work requires increased commitment, better policies and more funds at the global, regional and national levels.

Kansiime Ruth (25 years) ensures that both her children Lighton (1 year) and Joanita ( 4yrs) receive their pediatric HIV medicine at the same time at home every day. Lighton is now taking the oral pellets in place of the bitter syrup. This has helped alot in terms of getting her to take her medication and suppress her viral load. "When giving the tablets to lighton, I open the capsule and pour the pellets in to the food and give it to her in the food. It is much easier to give her the pellets mixed into foo

Kansiime Ruth, a mother of two, ensures that both her children receive their pediatric HIV medicine at the same time at home every day. Child-friendly pellets make this task infinitely easier than capsules.

Sandrine Kembyam, a 17 years old girl, smiles when she learned she's HIV negative. The young girl accepted to do the HIV test today at her home, in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad. A community health mobilizer goes door by door to do HIV test with families. Luckily, good news for all of them and the family is filled with joy and relief.

A community health mobilizer goes door by door to do HIV tests with families in Chad.

Christine (wearing turquiose) and her baby Rutega Christelle (16 months) and Rebeccka (with baby Naybare Sheba 5 months) at the POC (ISIS Point of Care Clinic) Mbarara RRH (Regional Referral Hospital) South Western Uganda.

“My happiest day was at the clinic when my baby was discharged as HIV negative,” says a mother at a Point of Care clinic in Uganda.

The solution

HIV affects genders, age groups and cultures in different ways, so programmes must be targeted depending on the context. What works for adolescent girls in a rural community is different from what works in a city, or from what works for adolescent boys or people who inject drugs.

The most effective, equitable and sustainable HIV-related interventions are those in which the human rights of HIV-affected communities are seen as fundamental priorities.

“Without treatment, half the babies living with HIV will die before their second birthdays.”

UNICEF is committed to ending AIDS by 2030, in line with global targets, and to making HIV services easier to access. We work in more than 190 countries and territories with a range of partners at all levels, from grassroots organizations to governments to global partners in HIV response.

Preventing new HIV infections and improving access to testing and treatment saves lives and are the pillars of UNICEF’s HIV response. We have set ambitious targets for ending AIDS in our Strategic Plan results and Start Free Stay Free AIDS-free frameworks, in which we play a global leadership role.

 

Sandrine Kembyam (17) smiles when she learns she is HIV negative. The young girl agreed to getting the HIV test today at her home, in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad.
UNICEF/UN0291288// Frank Dejongh
Sandrine Kembyam (17) smiles when she learns she is HIV negative. The young woman agreed to getting the HIV test today at her home, in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad.

UNICEF’s HIV and AIDS programme

Our programme focuses on the following three areas:

  • Mother-to-child transmission: Women living with HIV must have access to services to keep them alive and stop the transmission of HIV to their babies during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. Continued support, testing and retesting mothers and their babies during these times can prevent transmission.
  • Paediatric treatment and care: Without treatment, half the babies living with HIV will die before their second birthdays. Early testing in infants and immediate treatment is the top priority for babies exposed to HIV. However, some lab tests can take weeks for a mother to receive the result of her baby’s HIV status. UNICEF is scaling up point-of-care diagnostics throughout sub-Saharan Africa by which infants can now be tested and started off on treatment the same day. We are also working to locate, link and retain those children who did not receive early testing or continued treatment and care.
  • New HIV infections in adolescents: UNICEF promotes a combination of biomedical, behavioural and structural interventions to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and boys. These innovative solutions include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), HIV self-testing, HIV sensitive protection services and mobile communication to improve access to treatment and care.
A family is undergoing a home screening HIV test in the village of Benjaminkro, in the Southwest of Côte d’Ivoire.
UNICEF/UN0343489// Frank Dejongh
A family is undergoing a home screening HIV test in the village of Benjaminkro, in the Southwest of Côte d’ivoire.

An inclusive HIV response

UNICEF works with governments and global partners to leverage resources on behalf of children. At the same time, we are building partnerships with people living with and affected by HIV – especially mothers, children and adolescents.

The top five contributors to UNICEF’s HIV response are the Korean National Committee for UNICEF, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, United Nations Populations Fund, Unitaid and the United States.

Not least of all, individual donors through national committees remain the backbone of UNICEF’s work throughout the world.

Kemong Djeke (62) is taking care of her grandchild Chris. His mother died while giving birth. The little boy was always sick and very slim the first months. Unfortunately, he was declared HIV positive. Since his birth, the father, also seropositive, left the baby with his mother, and never went back. The grandmother went to the hospital, asked for all the information and started his treatment. Chris is getting well now.
UNICEF/UN0343483// Frank Dejongh
Kemong Djeke (62) is taking care of her grandchild, Chris. His mother died while giving birth. The little boy was always sick and very slim the first months. Unfortunately, he was declared HIV positive. Since his birth, the father, also seropositive, left the baby with his mother, and never went back. The grandmother went to the hospital, asked for all the information and started his treatment. Chris is getting well now.

Connect

Stay in touch with the UNICEF HIV team