Every 100 seconds, a child or youth was infected with HIV last year: UNICEF

at 11:58 am
Representational image

New Delhi (NVI): Around the world in approximately every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person below the age of 20 was infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) last year, according to the UNICEF report.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the report showed that, “Nearly 320,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV and 110,000 children died of AIDS last year. Of these children, 79,000 were aged 0-9 years and 34,000 aged 10-19.”

“Prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations and in 2019, a little less than half of children worldwide had access to life-saving treatment,” UNICEF said.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic.”

“There is still no HIV vaccine. Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before COVID-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk,” Fore added.

The report titled— Reimagining a resilient HIV response for children, adolescents and pregnant women living with HIV, said that despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children.

The paediatric coverage of antiretroviral treatment was highest in the Middle East and North Africa, at 81 per cent, followed by South Asia at 76 per cent, Eastern and Southern Africa at 58 per cent, East Asia and the Pacific region recorded 50 per cent coverage, Latin America and the Caribbean 46 per cent and West and Central Africa 32 per cent.

Furthermore, the UNICEF report showed that 1,50,000 children aged 0-9 years were newly infected with HIV. About 1,70,000 adolescents aged 10-19 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children living with HIV to 2.8 million last year.

The number of pregnant women living with HIV was 1.3 million, an estimated 82,000 children under the age of 5 were infected during pregnancy or birth and 68,000 were infected during breast feeding, UNICEF said.

According to the UNICEF, the COVID-19 crisis has further worsen inequities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere and there are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.

The data from UNAIDS and HIV joint service was also cited in the report, which showed the impact of necessary control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.

Paediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries declined between 50 to 70 per cent, and new treatment initiation fell by 25 to 50 per cent in April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns to control the novel coronavirus.

Moreover, health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and ART initiation declined by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services declined by approximately 10 per cent.

Though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain and the world is still far from achieving the global 2020 paediatric HIV targets, the report said.

However, UNICEF called upon all governments to protect, sustain and accelerate progress in fighting childhood HIV by maintaining essential health services and strengthening health systems.