Ahead of the Africa launch of the “Global Alliance to end Aids in children” on 1 February in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, UNAIDS warned today of a “forgotten generation of children” grappling with HIV that are not receiving any treatment. Worldwide 1.7 million children are living with HIV.
“Last year alone 160, 000 children were infected with HIV”, said Charlotte Sector, Spokesperson for UNAIDS at a press briefing at the United Nations in Geneva. “So, what is happening that 12 countries are coming together in Africa because 6 countries in sub-Saharan Africa represent 50% of those new infections. And therefore, there is a global alliance coming together to try and put an end to that.”
The “Global Alliance to end Aids in children”, has been launched by UNAIDS, UNICEF and WHO and partners in August 2022 and aims to ensure that every child living with HIV is found and receiving life-saving treatment by the end of the decade but also to prevent new HIV infections among infants and children.
While three quarters of adults living with HIV globally are on treatment, only half of children are.
According to Ms. Sector, “it is mostly trying to stop vertical transmission. Now what is vertical transmission? It’s the mother passing on HIV during pregnancy, during delivery or during breast feeding because most of those transmissions are taking place during breastfeeding”.
Only 52% of children living with HIV are on life-saving treatment versus 76 % of adults. Almost 60% of children not on treatment are between 5-14 years.
“There is a big push to get people, adults, on treatment, because the idea is: you cannot transmit the virus if you give treatment to adults”, said UNAIDS spokesperson. “So, what happens is leaders’ realization that we have forgotten all these children, and there is a forgotten generation of children. So now, there has been a scramble to close that faucet, if I may say, of getting to the children before they are even born or after they are born”.
Twelve countries with high HIV vertical transmission have joined the alliance in the first phase: Angola, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“In the case of Nigeria where vertical transmission is almost 25%, there was a lack of test kits, it’s as simple as that. Lack of HIV test kits”, said Charlotte Sector. “Also, many women because it’s a very large country, are giving birth not in clinics. So how do you find those women? So, it’s a question of putting together, and they are doing this notably in Nigeria, the mapping and they are trying to figure out where are the pregnant women and how can we reach them”.