Three years of steady progress in HIV treatment and prevention affects 2.7 million young people
Nearly 110,000 young people under the age of 19 died last year from AIDS-related causes, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Friday, noting that combined with 310,000 new infections, the total number of young people living with HIV is 2.7 million.
ahead International AIDS Day On Thursday, UNICEF warned in its latest global report on children, HIV and AIDS that progress in HIV prevention and care has barely changed over the past three years, with many regions still not covered by pre-pandemic services.
“While children have long lagged behind adults in the fight against AIDS, the stagnation of the last three years is unprecedentedputting too many young lives at risk of disease and death.” said UNICEF Deputy Head for HIV/AIDS Anurita Baines.
This is due to the existing and growing gap in the treatment of adults and children, adolescents and pregnant women.
“Children are failing because we collectively cannot find and test them and provide them with life-saving treatment,” she continued.
“Every day, without progress, more than 300 children and adolescents lose the fight against AIDS.”
The numbers tell the story
Although they account for only seven percent of the total number of people living with HIV, children and adolescents accounted for 17 percent of AIDS-related deaths.and 21 percent of new HIV infections last year.
UNICEF warns that until the causes of inequality are addressed, ending AIDS among children and adolescents will remain a distant dream.
However, the snapshot shows that long-term trends remain positive.
From 2010 to 2021, new HIV infections among children under 14 fell by 52 percent, and new infections among children aged 15 to 19 also fell by 40 percent.
Similarly, coverage of lifelong antiretroviral treatment (ART) among pregnant women living with HIV has increased from 46 percent to 81 percent in one decade.
Growing treatment gap
While the overall number of children living with HIV is declining, treatment gap between children and adults continues to widen.
In UNICEF HIV priority countries, ART coverage for children was 56 percent in 2020 but dropped to 54 percent in 2021.
This decline was driven by several factors, including the pandemic and other global crises, which have exacerbated marginalization and poverty.
However, this failure also reflects the weakening of political will and the weakening of the response to AIDS among children.
Globally, only 52 percent of children living with HIV had access to treatment, and this figure has only slightly increased over the past few years.
Meanwhile, among all adults living with HIV, coverage at 76% was more than 20 percentage points higher than among children.
Between children and pregnant women living with HIV, the gap was 81 percent.
Moreover, the percentage of children living with HIV under the age of four who are not receiving ART rose to 72 percent last year, the same as in 2012.
In 2020, pregnant and lactating women in Asia Pacific; Caribs; East and South Africa; Treatment coverage has declined in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and West and Central Africa.
And in 2021, coverage in Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa has further declined.
With the exception of West and Central Africa, which continues to experience the highest burden of mother-to-child transmission, none of the above regions has recovered to 2019 levels, putting newborn lives at increased risk.
In 2021, there were more than 75,000 new infections in children because pregnant women were not diagnosed and treated.
“With renewed political commitment to reach the most vulnerable, strategic partnerships and resources to scale up programs, we can end AIDS in children, adolescents and pregnant women,” said Ms Baines.