UNICEF announced yesterday that some progress is being made in preventing and treating HIV/AIDS in children. According to UNICEF’s “Children and AIDS: Second Stocktaking Report”, significant improvements have been made in reducing rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and increasing the number of children receiving life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). In 2006, 350,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries received drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission, a 60% increase from 2005. Also in 2006, more than 125,000 HIV-positive children were receiving AIDS treatment, up 70% from the year before.
In particular, steady progress has been made in eastern and southern Africa. Two years ago, only 11% of HIV-positive pregnant women in the region were receiving drugs to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. That number rose to 31% by 2006. The number of children receiving ARVs also rose dramatically, from 70,000 to 127,000 over the same period.
Despite this progress, the world is still far from reaching UNICEF’s target of 80% treatment coverage by 2010. “Poor geographical service reach, aggravated by weak health systems, and the fear, stigma and denial that discourage many women from being tested for HIV are significant barriers to wider coverage,” the report said.
– Jessica Warren