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Report reveals inequalities in access to HIV prevention, treatment among children

A new report from  the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free Initiative, has revealed what it described as the stark inequalities in access to HIV prevention and treatment among children.
UNAIDS and partners have, therefore, warned that progress towards ending AIDS among children, adolescents and young women has stalled and none of the targets for 2020 were met.
The report indicated that the total number of children on treatment declined for the first time, despite the fact that nearly 800 000 children living with HIV are not currently on treatment.
It also showed that opportunities to identify infants and young children living with HIV early are being missed—more than one third of children born to mothers living with HIV were not tested. If untreated, around 50% of children living with HIV die before they reach their second birthday. 
The report quoted the UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme, Shannon Hader, as saying that: “Over 20 years ago, initiatives for families and children to prevent vertical transmission and to eliminate children dying of AIDS truly kick-started what has now become our global AIDS response.
“This stemmed from an unprecedented activation of all partners, yet, despite early and dramatic progress, despite more tools and knowledge than ever before, children are falling way behind adults and way behind our goals.
“The inequalities are striking—children are nearly 40% less likely than adults to be on life-saving treatment (54% of children versus 74% of adults), and account for a disproportionate number of deaths (just 5% of all people living with HIV are children, but children account for 15% of all AIDS-related deaths).
“This is about children’s right to health and healthy lives, their value in our societies.  It’s time to reactivate on all fronts—we need the leadership, activism, and investments to do what’s right for kids.”
The report therefore, called for urgent action among countries to ensure children have access to prevention and treatment of HIV.
Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free Initiative is a five-year framework that began in 2015, following on from the hugely successful Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
It called for a super Fast-Track approach to ensure that every child has an HIV-free beginning, that they stay HIV-free through adolescence and that every child and adolescent living with HIV has access to antiretroviral therapy.
 The approach intensified focus on 23 countries, 21 of which were in Africa, that accounted for 83% of the global number of pregnant women living with HIV, 80% of children living with HIV and 78% of young women aged 15–24 years newly infected with HIV.
However, the report noted that  there are three actions needed to end HIV infections among children in focus countries.
The first, the report said, is to reach pregnant women with testing and treatment as early as possible. It explained that 66 000 new HIV infections occurred among children because their mothers did not receive treatment at all during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
The second action, according to the report, is to ensure the continuity of treatment and viral suppression during pregnancy, breastfeeding and for life, explaining that 38 000 children became newly infected with HIV because their mothers were not continued in care during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The third action, the report revealed, is to prevent new HIV infections among women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, noting that 35 000 new infections among children occurred because a woman became newly infected with HIV during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Written by ExpressDay

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