A new report released by UNICEF shows great progress has been made to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, with more than 850,000 new childhood infections averted between 2005 and 2012 in low- and middle-income countries.
However, the 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS released on Friday raises the alarm on adolescents, citing the need for increased global and national efforts to address HIV and AIDS among this vulnerable age group.
AIDS-related deaths amongst adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 increased by 50% between 2005 and 2012, rising from 71,000 to 110,000, in stark contrast to progress made in preventing mother-to-child transmission.
There were approximately 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV in 2012, the report says.
“If high-impact interventions are scaled up using an integrated approach, we can halve the number of new infections among adolescents by 2020,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “It’s a matter of reaching the most vulnerable adolescents with effective programmes – urgently.”
High-impact interventions include condoms, antiretroviral treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, communications for behaviour change, and targeted approaches for at-risk and marginalized populations. This is in addition to investments in other sectors such as education, social protection and welfare, and strengthening health systems.
In contrast to adolescents, progress has been impressive in the area of preventing new HIV infections among infants. Some 260,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2012, compared to 540,000 in 2005.
The report also emphasizes that for an AIDS-free generation to become a reality, more children living with HIV should receive antiretroviral treatment.
Only 34% of children living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries received the treatment they needed in 2012, compared to 64% of adults. As a result, an estimated 210,000 children died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2012.