The UN’s main AIDS program says thousands of children are dying of HIV/AIDS because, unlike adults, they do not receive treatment for the deadly disease.
HIV/AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence. People infected with the disease can lead normal lives, if they receive treatment and care. Unfortunately, there is a clear disparity in the way children and adults with HIV/AIDS are treated.
UNAIDS spokeswoman Charlotte Sector says 76 percent of adults have access to treatment but only half of children living with HIV are receiving life-saving treatment. She says children account for 15 percent of AIDS deaths, even though they make up only four percent of all people living with the disease.
Sector said, “Last year alone, 160,000 children were infected with HIV.” So what’s happening is that 12 countries are coming together in Africa because the six countries in sub-Saharan Africa represent 50 percent of those new infections.
She says a global coalition led by UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and UNICEF has formed to close the gap. She says 12 African countries have joined the coalition. The sector said health ministers from eight countries will launch the initiative in Tanzania next week.
“So, it’s not just treating children, but it’s mostly trying to prevent vertical transmission,” Sector said. “Now what is vertical transmission? It’s a mother who transmits HIV during pregnancy, during childbirth or during breastfeeding because most of those transmissions are happening during breastfeeding.”
Spector says efforts to control the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa have largely focused on treating adults as the main transmitters of the virus. However, she says that the needs of the children are neglected in this process.
“So, what happens is, all of a sudden we’ve forgotten about all these kids, and there’s a sense that there’s a forgotten generation of kids,” Sektor said. “So, now it’s kind of a scramble to turn off that faucet, if I’m going to get the kids before they’re born or after they’re born.
This global alliance will last for the next eight years until 2030. During that time, it aims to close the treatment gap for pregnant and lactating adolescents and HIV-infected women, preventing new HIV infections and providing access to detection, testing and treatment. and eliminate social barriers that impede access to services.