GENEVA, Switzerland – Every day, 1,000 children around the world are infected with HIV. However, there is hope in the fight against AIDS. The U.N. just announced that new child HIV infections has been reduced by 50% or more in seven sub-Saharan African countries. These impressive countries are Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia and countries including Tanzania and Zimbabwe are making substantial progress as well.
This progress is all due to the international “Global Plan” to end HIV infections in children. The Global Plan was initiated in 2011 and aims to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015, as well as keeping infected mothers alive. The plan focuses on 22 countries that account for 90% of new HIV infections among children. 21 of the 22 countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa, which has been affected the most by the AIDS epidemic. Data shows that there have been 130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children in these countries since 2009, a drop of 38%.
“The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts, every child can be born free from HIV,” said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
While the progress in these countries is a great achievement, there are some countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have seen little decline, or, as in the case of Angola, an increase in new HIV infections. Nigeria has the largest number of children being infected with HIV, nearly 60,000 a year, and this rate has changed little in the past few years.
While transmission from mother to child has been reduced to 5% or less in many countries, there is still the risk of mothers transmitting to their children while breastfeeding. Reports show that only half of all breastfeeding women living with HIV have access to antiretroviral medicine that prevents the transmission of HIV. Countries such as South Africa and Swaziland have provided access to antiretrovirals to over half of children infected.
– Catherine Ulrich