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Inequalities persist in HIV prevention and treatment services for children – UN

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Inequalities persist in HIV prevention and treatment services for children – UN

By Cecilia Ologunagba

Nearly half of the 1.7 million children living with HIV globally were not on treatment in 2020, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) said.

UNAIDS, in a report from the “Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free” initiative released with its partners in Geneva, warned that progress in ending AIDS in children, adolescents and young women was at stake. stalled and required urgent action.

The agency released the report alongside the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from Elizabeth Glaser.

A statement posted on the WHO website said the five-year framework began in 2015 and follows a global plan to reduce new HIV infections in children by that year, while ensuring also for people living with HIV access to antiretroviral treatment.

“The focus was on 23 countries, mostly in Africa,” he said.

The study showed that 150,000 children were newly infected, four times the 2020 target of 40,000.

The total number of children on treatment also fell for the first time, despite the fact that nearly 800,000 children living with HIV are currently not on treatment.

In addition, opportunities to identify infants and young children living with HIV early have been missed, as more than a third of children born to mothers living with the virus have not been tested.

“Over 20 years ago, initiatives for families and children to prevent vertical transmission and eliminate children who die of AIDS really kick-started what has become our global AIDS response. .

“This stems from an unprecedented activation of all partners, but despite early and dramatic progress, despite more tools and knowledge than ever before, children are far behind adults and far from our goals,” said Shannon Hader, Deputy Executive Director of the Program. , to UNAIDS.

The study reveals glaring inequalities, as children are almost 40 times less likely to receive life-saving treatment than adults.

Although children represent five percent of people living with HIV, they account for 15 percent of all AIDS-related deaths.

“The HIV community has a long history of facing unprecedented challenges, today we need the same energy and perseverance to meet the needs of the most vulnerable – our children,” said Ren Minghui, Executive Director. Assistant for Universal Health Coverage / Communicable and Division of Noncommunicable Diseases, WHO.

“African leaders have the power to help us change the pace of care and must act and lead until no child living with HIV is left behind,” he said.

The report details areas for action, starting with reaching pregnant women with testing and treatment as early as possible, as some 66,000 new HIV infections have occurred in children because their mothers did not receive. treatment during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Mothers should also be able to continue treatment and viral suppression for life, while more effort is needed to prevent new infections in pregnant and breastfeeding women.

At the same time, the report documents the progress made in preventing HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, with a drop of nearly 30% in target countries between 2015 and 2020.

However, the 200,000 people who have contracted HIV are double the global target for 2020.

In addition to disrupting education, school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have also affected sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and women, the authors said, highlighting the urgent need to scale up. prevention and awareness.

“The lives of the most vulnerable girls and young women are at stake, locked in deep-rooted cycles of vulnerability and neglect that urgently need to be interrupted.

“We know that quick wins can be made for girls and young women; what it takes is the courage to apply the solutions and the discipline to implement them rigorously and at scale, ”said Chewe Luo, UNICEF Chief HIV Officer and Associate Director of Programs health.

UNAIDS and its partners will continue to work together to develop new frameworks to address what they have described as “the unfinished agenda”.

Last June, countries adopted a political declaration to put the world back on track to end HIV and AIDS by the end of the decade, which sets targets for the next five years. (NAA)

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