HIV -AIDS

Some 320 children and adolescents died every day from AIDS-related causes in 2018, or 13 every hour, according to a UN report.

Low access to antiretroviral treatment, in addition to limited prevention efforts, is a leading cause for these deaths, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in the report emailed to Xinhua.

Of the 1.7 million children aged 0-14 living with HIV in 2018, only 54 percent received lifesaving antiretroviral therapy (ART) whereas coverage among pregnant women is 28 percentage points higher, the report says.

The report points to deep regional disparities in access to treatment among children living with HIV.

Access is highest in South Asia, at 91 percent, followed by the Middle East and North Africa (73 percent), Eastern and Southern Africa (61 percent), East Asia and the Pacific (61 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (46 percent) and West and Central Africa (28 percent).

Additional data from the report include:

— In 2018, around 160,000 children aged 0-9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children in this age group living with HIV to 1.1 million;

— A total of 89,000 children under the age of five were infected during pregnancy or birth and 76,000 were infected during breastfeeding in 2018; and

— A total of 140,000 adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV in 2018, compared to 50,000 adolescent boys.

“The world is on the cusp of making great gains in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but we must not rest on the laurels of progress made,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Neglecting testing and treatment initiatives for children and adolescents is a matter of life and death, and for them, we must choose life.”

UNICEF urged governments and partners to improve HIV testing and treatment data for children and adolescents to better respond to the needs of this vulnerable population.

The agency also called for more investment and implementation of effective and innovative interventions to urgently close the persistent testing and treatment gap for children and adolescents living with HIV.

“The cost of failing to test and treat every child at risk of HIV is one we measure in children’s lives and futures — a cost that no society can afford,” Fore said.

HIV initiatives need to be fully funded and equipped to preserve, protect and improve the quality of life for children, in the first and second decades, he added. Enditem

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