Over 300 children and adolescents die every day from AIDS-related causes

26th November 2019

Only half of children living with HIV have access to life-saving treatment

Achta, a 19 years old girl, shows condoms during a session to raise awareness about HIV in her community in Chad.

DUBLIN/ NEW YORK/JOHANNESBURG, 26 November 2019 – Some 320 children and adolescents died every day from AIDS-related causes in 2018, or 13 every hour, according to a global snapshot on children, HIV and AIDS released by UNICEF today.

Low access to antiretroviral treatment, in addition to limited prevention efforts, is a leading cause for these deaths, with only 54 per cent of children aged 0-14 living with HIV in 2018 – or 790,000 children – receiving lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.

A great battle

“The world is on the cusp of making great gains in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but we must not rest on the laurels of progress made,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Neglecting testing and treatment initiatives for children and adolescents is a matter of life and death, and for them, we must choose life.”

Regional disparities

Data show deep regional disparities in access to treatment among children living with HIV. Access to treatment is highest in South Asia, at 91 per cent, followed by the Middle East and North Africa (73 per cent), Eastern and Southern Africa (61 per cent), East Asia and the Pacific (61 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (46 per cent) and West and Central Africa (28 per cent).

Mothers’ healthier

Mothers’ access to antiretroviral therapy to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies has increased, reaching 82 per cent, up from 44 per cent less than 10 years ago. However, disparities between regions persist, with Eastern and Southern Africa offering the highest rates of coverage (92 per cent), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (79 per cent), West and Central Africa (59 per cent), South Asia (56 per cent), East Asia and the Pacific (55 per cent) and the Middle East and North Africa (53 per cent).

Children need investment

“While we still have a long way to go, giving more and more pregnant women antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission has helped avert about 2 million new HIV infections and prevented the deaths of over 1 million children under five years old,” Fore said. “We need to see similar progress in paediatric treatment. Closing this gap between children and their mothers could significantly increase the life expectancy and quality of life of children infected with HIV.”

New figures

Additional data from the report includes:

UNICEF call

To end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat for future generations, UNICEF is urging governments and partners to:

“The cost of failing to test and treat every child at risk of HIV is one we measure in children’s lives and futures – a cost that no society can afford. HIV initiatives need to be fully funded and equipped to preserve, protect and improve the quality of life for children, in the first and second decades,” said Fore.

ENDS

Notes for Editors

Expert spokespersons available for interview

Multimedia content available to download here

For more information, please contact:

Aedín Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | aedin@unicef.ie | Tel: +353 1 809 0266 | Mob: +353 85 1395272