…as the world, still far from 2020 pediatric HIV targets
Almost 15 per cent of global AIDS-related deaths in children, adolescents occur in Nigeria, a new report released by UNICEF has shown.
The UNICEF report, which was released on December 1, to mark the World AIDS Day, stated that approximately every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was newly infected with HIV last year, bringing the total number of children living with HIV globally to 2.8 million.
UNICEF warned that children were being left behind in the fight against HIV, adding that though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain, and the world was still far from achieving the global 2020 pediatric HIV targets.
In Nigeria, about 22,000 new infections occurred in children aged 0-14 years in 2019.
According to the report, prevention efforts and treatment for children similarly remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations. In 2019, a little more than half of children worldwide had access to life-saving treatment, significantly lagging behind coverage for both mothers (85 per cent) and all adults living with HIV (62 per cent). Nearly 110,000 children died of AIDS that year. In Nigeria 13,000 children aged 0-14 years died of AIDS-related causes in 2019.
Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children, the report said. Pediatric coverage of antiretroviral treatment is highest in the Middle East and North Africa, at 81 per cent, and lowest in West and Central Africa (32 per cent). In Nigeria, it is 36 per cent.
“The world is still struggling with the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, but there is now hope for a vaccine. But we must remember that there is no vaccine for HIV,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.
“Hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the impacts of the HIV epidemic. Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. Even with improvements in recent years, HIV treatment access for children and adolescents is unacceptably low, and much more needs to be done to ensure children get the treatment they need and deserve.”
The report also stated that COVID-19 has interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services globally, putting countless more lives at risk.
The COVID-19 crisis has also further exacerbated inequities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere.
Almost nine out of 10 children and adolescents of the estimated 2.8 million children aged 0–19 living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.