320,000 new cases of HIV infection in children and adolescents in 2019: Unicef

The report-Reinventing a resilient response to HIV for children, adolescents and pregnant women living with HIV—Warns that children are being left behind in the fight against HIV. Prevention and treatment efforts for children remain among the weakest among key affected populations, according to the report. In 2019, just over half of the world’s children had access to life-saving treatment, falling significantly behind coverage for both mothers (85%) and all adults living with HIV (62%) . Nearly 110,000 children died of AIDS that year, according to the Unicef ​​report.

Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially among children, the report notes. Pediatric antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage is highest in West Asia and North Africa, at 81%, followed by South Asia (76%), East and Southern Africa (58 %), East Asia and the Pacific (50%), Latin America and the Caribbean (46%) and West and Central Africa (32%).

“Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer from the ravages of the HIV epidemic,” said Unicef ​​Executive Director Henrietta Fore . infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying of AIDS. This was even before covid-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services, putting countless more lives at risk, ”Fore added.

The covid-19 crisis has further exacerbated inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant women around the world, the global agency said.

In a recent UNICEF survey of 29 HIV priority countries, one-third responded that service coverage for children, adolescents and women living with HIV and vulnerable to HIV was 10% or more lower by compared to pre-pandemic figures.

UNAIDS data on disruption of HIV services cited in the report further illustrate the impact of necessary control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment and redeployment. health workers on HIV services.

During the months of April and May, coinciding with partial and complete lockdowns, pediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries declined by 50-70%, and re-initiation of treatment was reduced. dropped from 25 to 50%.

Similarly, deliveries in health facilities and maternal treatment have also reportedly decreased by 20-60%, maternal HIV testing and initiation of antiretroviral therapy decreased by 25-50%, and infant testing services declined. about 10%. Although the relaxation of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound in services in recent months, challenges remain and the world is still a long way from meeting the 2020 global targets. pediatric HIV, Unicef ​​said.

Global figures cited in the report indicate that 150,000 children aged 0-9 have been newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children in this age group living with HIV to 1.1 million. . He also said 170,000 adolescents aged 10 to 19 had been newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of adolescents living with HIV to 1.7 million. In addition, 130,000 adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV in 2019, compared to 44,000 adolescent boys. In addition, the total number of AIDS-related child and adolescent deaths was 110,000; 79,000 aged 0-9 and 34,000 aged 10-19.

“Mothers’ access to antiretroviral therapy to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies has increased to 85% worldwide and early diagnosis of infants has reached 60%,” the report said. “The number of pregnant women living with HIV was 1.3 million; an estimated 82,000 children under five were infected during pregnancy or childbirth and 68,000 were infected while breastfeeding, ”he said.

The report called on all governments to protect, support and accelerate progress in the fight against HIV in children by maintaining essential health services and strengthening health systems.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said last week that India was protecting progress in HIV prevention during the covid-19 pandemic. However, he said, the new vulnerabilities and risks exacerbated by the pandemic warrant a graduated and coordinated response.

An earlier report from Unicef ​​indicated that around 120,000 children and adolescents aged 0-19 were living with HIV in India in 2017, the highest number in South Asia. The report also warned that around 80 adolescents worldwide would die of AIDS every day by 2030 if progress in preventing transmission did not accelerate.

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