UNICEF in action
The UNAIDS report “Together we will end AIDS” indicates that globally significant progress has been made in reducing new HIV infection in children. Since 2009, new infections in children have fallen by an estimated 24%. According to the report in both expanding and access to ART and stopping HIV infections in children, this progress suggests that countries are on track to achieving the targets set out in the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: to eliminate new infections in children and reach 15 million people with ART (UNAIDS Report July, 2012).
UNICEF is one of the 11 co-sponsoring agencies of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS and works at regional and country level in a coordinated manner with the other agencies to support national responses and SAARC to implement its regional HIV/AIDS strategy.
UNICEF ROSA strengthened its strategic regional and national partnerships with UNAIDS cosponsors, development agencies, civil societies, research institutions, cricket stars, high profile celebrities, politicians and media resulting in high-impact visibility of the children and AIDS agenda across South Asia.
In South Asia, UNICEF focuses on four aspects of HIV and AIDS, the ‘Four P’s’:
• Preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) – UNICEF will contribute towards the goal of 90 per cent of pregnant women have access to services to prevent HIV transmission from mother-to-child, including access to information, counselling and testing, and if necessary, anti-retroviral drugs as a prophylaxis, safe birthing options and infant feeding counseling by 2015. The comprehensive PMTCT approach ensures follow-up care, treatment and support for women and children after delivery, along with their partners. In collaboration with members of the Asia-Pacific UN PPTCT Task Force, UNICEF ROSA is supporting the unified regional response on the elimination of new paediatric HIV infections and congenital syphilis. UNICEF ROSA continues its high-level advocacy with national governments for the elimination of new paediatric HIV cases in South Asia.
• Providing appropriate, high-quality paediatric treatment – UNICEF’s goal is to contribute to the provision of either antiretroviral treatment (ART), antibiotics, or both to 80 per cent of children in need by 2015. According to UNAIDS, in 2010, in Asia-Pacific, only 32% of infants born to women living with HIV received antiretroviral prophylaxis. However, reported coverage levels varied widely, from over 85% in Bhutan to below 20% in, Nepal and Pakistan. Early HIV diagnosis is critical for prompt initiation of antiretroviral therapy in HIV-positive children, but very few infants born to women living with HIV are currently provided with a virological test within two months of birth because of a lack of affordable rapid tests that can be done at service delivery points. As a result, most HIV-positive infants do not receive antiretroviral therapy as early as they need it. In the past two years, ROSA collaborated with WHO and other partners to support national governments to adopt the 2010 WHO guidelines on Antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in infants and children: Recommendations for a public health approach.
• Preventing HIV among adolescents and young people – Working with national and regional partners, UNICEF's specific goal is to contribute to the reduction by half the number of new infections in adolescents by 2015. UNICEF has made prevention among adolescents a priority in its fight against HIV, by supporting comprehensive prevention, care and support, particularly for those with high risk behaviours or in especially vulnerable situations. UNICEF ROSA supported countries to develop evidence on key affected adolescents and youth at the regional level and through studies in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. ROSA also contributed significantly to development and implementation of short courses on adolescent development and participation. Under the Inter-Agency Task Team on Young Key Affected Populations, UNICEF ROSA supported youth leader capacity-building initiative, New Generation (NewGen), which was developed by the regional network of key affected young people, Youth LEAD.
• Protecting and supporting children affected by HIV/AIDS – UNICEF also contributes to the goal of providing care and support for children affected by AIDS and ensure that social protection is HIV-sensitive and assures access to high impact interventions for children and adolescents. Through the UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign, UNICEF is supporting government efforts to provide orphans and children affected by HIV and AIDS with access to social services, care, and social-psychological support. UNICEF provided support to South Asian governments to include children affected by AIDS in National Strategic Plans. ROSA’s advocacy efforts for the rights of children affected by AIDS significantly enhanced by equity principles to reduce the exclusion of marginalized children and families and to increase equitable access to basic social services for affected children. Perhaps the most significant milestone in the recent past is the recommendation of SAARC Health Ministers to integrate the response protection, care and support for children affected by AIDS into the new 2012-2016 SAARC regional HIV/AIDS strategy.
HIV in Emergency
In emergency contexts, UNICEF ROSA support focuses on promoting access to prevention, treatment, care and support, including PMTCT, paediatric and adult ART services; and providing related guidance and training. Through protection efforts targeting emergency-affected children and adolescents, separated and unaccompanied children, UNICEF addresses a number of HIV-related concerns and vulnerabilities outside of traditional health sector programming..
ROSA follows the guidance provided by revised UNICEF Core Commitments to Children and the revised IASC Guidelines on Addressing HIV in Humanitarian Settings in order to ensure a multisectoral response to HIV/AIDS in humanitarian settings in South Asia.