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UNICEF welcomes results of study suggesting HIV prevalence has dropped among children

Pretoria, 13 May, 2010…UNICEF today welcomed the results of a study by the Human Sciences Research Council suggesting that HIV prevalence has dropped by more than half in children ages 2-14.  According to the survey, HIV prevalence dropped from 5.6% in 2002 to 2.5% in 2008.
UNICEF Representative Aida Girma said, “For the first time ever, we have a measure of levels of HIV in children under two.  Surveys such as this provide useful data to guide programming for children. UNICEF is committed to continuing to support the Department of Health and other partners in the follow-up from this important work.” 
Ms. Girma added that UNICEF plans to focus on strengthening districts’ capacities to provide quality health services that are responsive to the needs of women, children, and adolescents, and will work to ensure that their protection and access to quality education are also secure.  
Infant Nutrition remains a concern
The HSRC study also showed a threefold increase in exclusive breast feeding – 26 percent of children between 0-6 months as compared to 8.3 percent as stated in the Demographic and Health Survey of 2003. For the safety of infants, WHO and
UNICEF recommends exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of a child’s life.
“UNICEF and its partners in the child survival and development arena welcome this significant improvement in the rates of exclusive breastfeeding as documented in the HSRC report,” Ms Girma said.
UNICEF further advocates for strategies to be developed to harmonise messages used in the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, starting at the household and community level so that mothers and families are counselled on the benefits of breastfeeding in saving babies lives.
A credible body of global evidence and programmatic experience, including the recently released WHO HIV and infant feeding Revised Principles and Recommendations: Rapid Advice, November, 2009, demonstrating that exclusive breastfeeding, coupled with appropriate counselling and support is one of the most important child survival interventions.
In particular, the Rapid Advice states that antiretroviral (ARV) interventions to either the HIV-infected mother or the HIV-exposed infant can significantly reduce the risk of postnatal transmission of HIV through breastfeeding.
In this regard, UNICEF will partner with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and the Department of Health to ensure that mothers and families are made aware of the potential of maternal treatment and infant ARVs to reduce HIV transmission through breast feeding and thus contributing to saving many more babies’ lives.
Child–friendly health services
Quality public sector services remain critical for children, notably at the primary level of health care, UNICEF said, where services must address the major threats to the health of children and that of women. Optimal infant nutrition and routine immunization remain critical to keeping children alive.
The Presidential announcement on World AIDS Day and the recent launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign provide significant opportunities to expand services for PMTCT and child survival.  HIV and ART services need to be child and adolescent friendly.
The results of the survey were made public today by Dr. Olive Shisana, CEO of the   Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in the presence of Health Minister, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi and other key stakeholders.

Download the press release [WORD] [PDF]

HSRC Media Brief: The health of our children - results from a national HIV population survey





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