UNICEF in a report released today has revealed that about 2.8 million, children were living with HIV globally.
However, in Nigeria, about 22,000 new infections occurred in children aged 0-14 years in 2019. While adding that, 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.
The report hinted 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 2.8 million.
The UNICEF report warns that children are being left behind in the fight against HIV.
The reported added that, “Prevention efforts and treatment for children 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 says. 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.”
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative , stated that, “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 .
“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.”
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 9 out of 10 children and adolescents of the estimated 2.8 million children aged 0–19 living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a recent UNICEF survey of 29 HIV priority countries, one third responded that service coverage for children, adolescents and women living with and vulnerable to HIV is lower by 10 per cent or more, compared with pre-pandemic numbers.
UNAIDS’ HIV service disruption data, cited in the report, further illustrate the impact of necessary control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment, and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.
In the months of April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns, pediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries declined between 50 to 70 per cent, and new treatment initiation fell by 25 to 50 per cent.
Similarly, health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and ART initiation declined by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services declined by approximately 10 per cent.
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 is still far from achieving the global 2020 pediatric HIV targets.