Last year, nearly 450 infants acquired HIV every day – most of them during childbirth. These children are at extremely high risk of dying in the first two years of life. But so many of them are never diagnosed or treated.
Inadequate HIV testing and treatment for children is a widespread challenge. Although the 2019 global treatment rate for HIV-positive mothers stands at 82 per cent, the diagnosis and treatment of children with HIV is just 54 per cent in most regions.
This gap in coverage is often because diagnostic processes tend to be more complicated and cumbersome for children. Infants require a special type of testing for HIV (virological), which is not readily available in most low- and middle-income countries.
And although there are age-appropriate antiretroviral medicines for children, they can be hard to find in many areas largely due to a lack of investment in testing them.
This delayed diagnosis and treatment doesn’t have to happen. UNICEF and Uganda’s Ministry of Health recently enacted HIV treatment reforms for children to great success. With the help of partners and innovative diagnostic tools, 553 facilities across the country were able to provide antiretroviral therapy for children – up from 501 in 2017.