, Number of children with HIV getting treatment fell last year for the first time, Nzuchi Times

Number of children with HIV getting treatment fell last year for the first time

, Number of children with HIV getting treatment fell last year for the first time, Nzuchi Times

The number of children with HIV who were being treated fell last year for the first time, according to a new United Nations report outlining how dramatically the world is missing its targets on tackling the infection. 

There are 1.7 million children with HIV around the world and nearly 800,000 of them are not getting the drugs they need, the report from UNAids found. 

In 2019, 950,000 children with HIV were getting treatment; last year, that number fell by 30,000, to 920,000, amid the pandemic and stalling progress on fighting the virus.  

Despite the fact that children make up only around five per cent of cases, children account for around 15 per cent of all Aids-related deaths. 

The problem starts early. The report found that more than a third of children born to mothers with HIV were not tested for the virus, meaning they were unlikely to get treatment. Without this, around half of children living with HIV die before the age of two. 

In total, 150,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, almost four times the target of 40,000. 

The UN report warned that progress has stalled and none of the targets for last year were met – a similar picture as for adult infections. 

“Children are falling way behind adults and way behind our goals,” said Shannon Hader, UNAids deputy executive director. “The inequalities are striking… This is about children’s right to health and healthy lives, their value in our societies.” 

She said that preventing vertical transmission – from mother to baby – and stopping children dying of Aids were aims that had kickstarted the global response. But only 54 per cent of children, compared to 74 per cent of adults, are now getting life-saving treatment. 

The report is the culmination of a five-year project to stop children becoming infected with HIV. It focused particularly on 23 countries, 21 of them in Africa, which accounted for the vast majority of pregnant women, children and young women with HIV. 

There was some good news: there was a 24 per cent decline in new HIV infections among children over the period in the focus countries, compared to 20 per cent globally. They also reached 89 per cent treatment coverage for pregnant women with HIV, compared to 85 per cent globally, but there are major disparities: Botswana reached 100 per cent, while the Democratic Republic of Congo reached 39 per cent.  

New infections among adolescent girls also fell by 27 per cent between 2021, although it was still twice as high as the target – 200,000, compared to 100,000. 

Angeli Achrekar, acting US Global Aids co-ordinator, said: “While we are deeply distressed by the global paediatric HIV shortfalls, we are also encouraged by the fact that we largely have the tools we need to change this. 

“So, let this report be a call to action to challenge complacency and to work tirelessly to close the gap.”

The report suggests a number of key steps, including upping prevention efforts among young women – initiatives stalled during Covid-19 – as well as preventing infections among pregnant and breastfeeding women. It also recommends improving testing and treatment for pregnant women, and ensuring their care continues during pregnancy and breastfeeding. 

These latter steps could prevent nearly all new infections among children, the report found.

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