Africa: Children Left Behind in the Treatment of HIV

A blood spot test (for HIV) on an infant (file photo).

The world marks World Aids Day on December 1, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unicef's latest survey report shows that every minute and 40 seconds that passed last year, a child or young person under the age of 20 was infected with HIV.

Nearly 320,000 children and adolescents were infected with HIV and 110,000 children died of Aids-related illnesses last year, most of them in Africa.

Even though the number of Aids-related deaths among children aged 0-19 has fallen by 53 percent since 2000, deaths in young children under five still accounted for the majority, at 60 per cent in 2019.

The report states that paediatric prevention and treatment through antiretroviral therapy still lags behind in both treatment coverage for prevention of mother-to-child transmission, at 85 per cent.

It adds that the conditions of adults living with HIV (62 per cent) in 2019 was made worse by Covid-19 disruptions. Last year, only 53 per cent of children living with HIV had access to life-saving treatment.

The report, Reimagining a Resilient HIV Response for Children, Adolescents and Pregnant Women Living with HIV, was released on Wednesday. It also showed that sub-Saharan Africa was home to nine out of every 10 of the estimated 2.8 million children living with HIV in 2019.

Eastern and southern Africa have been more progressive in supporting HIV positive children, with an infant born to a mother with HIV in the two regions more than twice as likely to be tested within two months of birth.

Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Chad, South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, DRC, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Haiti, Nigeria and the Philippines are home to more than 50 percent of all children living with HIV who are not on ART.

In East Africa, only Uganda is on the pathway to eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The others in Africa are Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, South Africa and Malawi -- all of which have reported ART coverage exceeding 95 percent.

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