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World AIDS Day: HIV positive pregnant women and children must get treatment, says UNICEF

In Viet Nam, women and children remain particularly vulnerable to HIV and while the rate of new infections among men is declining, in a number of provinces in the north and the Mekong Delta, the number of new infections among women is increasing and many women in remote areas experience considerable difficulty in accessing care and treatment services. Photo: UNAIDS\2009\Justin Mott

Ha Noi, 30 November 2012 – New HIV infections in children are down, but reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation requires treating more pregnant women and children living with HIV, UNICEF said today.

Thanks to remarkable levels of global commitment, there has been a 24% reduction in new HIV infections in children worldwide – from 430,000 in 2009 to 330,000 in 2011. And, as of December 2011, over 100,000 more children with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment compared to 2010.

Despite these gains, less than one-third of children and pregnant women with HIV are receiving the antiretroviral treatment they need, as opposed to the global average of 54% for adults overall, making the most vulnerable in society also less likely to receive life-saving treatments.

“It is simply wrong that adults are twice as likely as children to receive the treatment they need,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “By definition, an AIDS-free generation depends on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable from HIV infection.  We must do still more to help mothers and children who live with HIV be able to live free from AIDS.  We must rededicate ourselves to boosting the number of pregnant women and children being tested and treated through basic antenatal and child health programmes.”

While high-income countries have long maintained near-universal coverage of antiretroviral medicines for pregnant women, in low- and middle-income countries, coverage required to prevent mother-to-child transmission only reached 57%, with reported coverage in Asia substantially lower at just 18%.

While the percentages of HIV-infected pregnant women remains low in Asia and the Pacific, the sheer size of the region’s population – some 69 million pregnancies occur annually – demands greater attention and action. In Viet Nam, the number of new infections has declined each year over the past three years and demonstrates that national and provincial level efforts to prevent HIV are beginning to pay dividends.

“However, women and children remain particularly vulnerable and while the rate of new infections among men is declining, in a number of provinces in the north and the Mekong Delta, the number of new infections among women is increasing and many women in remote areas experience considerable difficulty in accessing care and treatment services” said Jesper Moller, UNICEF Viet Nam’s Deputy Representative.

Viet Nam has expanded the provision of life-saving antiretroviral medication with support from major donors. The demand for these medications is going to increase significantly in the next few years but supply will not be able to keep pace with this increase in demand. UNICEF is working with other UN partners and NGOs to develop solutions to this problem, maintaining a particular focus on the need to ensure free and universal access to antiretroviral medication for children and pregnant women.

In Vietnam, UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Health to integrate the prevention of transmission of HIV from mother to child into the mainstream maternal child and reproductive health system. This will result in greater efficiencies in the provision of these services and reduce the cost burden to the Government that is a consequence of the current lack of integration.

“At a conference in Hanoi on the 17th of November, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc highlighted another area of concern that UNICEF Vietnam is working to address: the stigmatisation of children living with HIV and the impact this has on their ability to participate in schooling. UNICEF Viet Nam will work with government partners at the provincial and national level to raise awareness of this problem and develop practical approaches to its resolution”, Moller added.

Treatment provided to HIV-positive pregnant women, can keep them alive and well and prevent their babies from acquiring HIV during pregnancy, delivery and the breastfeeding period. Treatment can also prevent sexual transmission from an HIV-positive woman to an HIV-negative partner.

Working to end new HIV infections among children by 2015 and to keep their mothers alive is a key element of UNICEF’s overall commitment to child survival under the global movement, “A Promise Renewed.”

UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF Viet Nam and its work visit:

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