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UN Report: Data shows progress needed on HIV testing and treatment for children and mothers

2009-11-29

NEW YORK/GENEVA/ BARCELONA 30 November 2009 – National efforts to combat   AIDS, particularly by preventing mother-to-child transmission, are   showing positive results, but many HIV and AIDS affected children still   struggle to have their basic needs met, according to a report launched   today by four United Nations agencies.

The report, titled Children and AIDS: The Fourth Stocktaking Report, 2009   and published jointly by UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF   and the World Health Organization (WHO), features data on interventions   that protect women and children from HIV and AIDS and a set of principles   to guide accelerated action.

The data shows there has been significant progress in some countries in   both treatment to avoid mother-to-child transmission and testing of   pregnant women for HIV. Treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission   is now provided to 95 per cent of those in need in Botswana, 91 per cent   in Namibia and 73 per cent in South Africa -- all countries with high HIV   prevalence. Progress is particularly evident in South Africa, where   coverage was raised from just 15 per cent in 2004.

 “Globally, 45 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women are now receiving   treatment to prevent them passing HIV on to their children, an increase   of nearly 200 per cent since 2005,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive   Director. “The challenge is to scale up treatment in countries such as   Nigeria, which is home to 15 per cent of the world’s pregnant women   living with HIV.”

Currently only 10 per cent of women in Nigeria are tested for HIV and   ninety percent of pregnant women living with HIV are not accessing   treatments to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

The links among household poverty, maternal and child health, and HIV   remain strong. However successes are evident where governments have made   strong commitments to address maternal and child health – including HIV   testing and treatment – and where testing and treatment have been   incorporated into general maternal and child health programmes.  Progress   will be stronger if root causes of vulnerability to HIV, including   poverty, gender inequality and sexual violence, are addressed.

"We cannot afford to be complacent," said Dr Margaret Chan, Director   General of WHO.  "In many high-income countries, paediatric HIV has been   virtually eliminated. This shows what is possible.  WHO's new   recommendations on preventing mother-to-child transmission, launched   today, offer an important opportunity to dramatically improve the health   of mothers and children in low-income settings."

Globally pediatric treatment for HIV positive children, while still   lagging behind adult treatment, has increased to cover 38 per cent of   those in need -- an improvement of nearly 40 per cent in just one year.

Recent evidence indicates that infant diagnosis in the first 2 months of   life and early initiation of anti-retroviral treatment (ARV) can lead to   significant reductions in child mortality, but the data shows that
globally only 15 per cent of children born to HIV positive mothers are   being tested in the first two months.

 “To expand HIV testing for mothers and children, we need to tackle social   barriers such as violence, stigma and discrimination, and strengthen   health systems,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA Executive Director.  “By   providing integrated services for maternal and newborn healthcare and
family planning and HIV testing, counseling and treatment, we can save   and improve the lives of millions of women and children.”

The situation of HIV and AIDS orphans continues to be a cause of concern, with only 1 in 8 families caring for orphans and vulnerable children   receiving external help, such as medical care, financial assistance and   support for education.

Another hard-hit group is women and girls aged 15 to 24.   Women and girls in this age group in sub-Saharan Africa continue to account for   nearly 70 per cent of all new infections among young people in the   region.  The report suggests that dealing with the epidemic’s drivers --   including sexual violence – means including men and boys in the response.

"Children have a right to be born free from HIV," said Mr. Michel Sidibé,   UNAIDS Executive Director. "No cost is too high for saving mothers and   babies. We can achieve this if we leverage the AIDS response to also   strengthen maternal child health services."

The report shows that investments in HIV and AIDS prevention and   treatment are paying off, especially for women and children.  If they are   sustained, and supported by commitment and sound policies, the dividends   will be measured in lives saved.

The Stocktaking Report will be launched at 11:00 a.m. in the UN   Secretariat on 30 November 2009, with special guest C. Virginia Fields,   President and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS,   Jimmy Kolker, UNICEF, and Nathan Shaffer, WHO and Reshma Pattni, UNFPA. 

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To view  Children and AIDS: The Fourth Stocktaking Report, 2009

Background on Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS:
The report, Children and AIDS: Third stocktaking report is the third   review of progress on how AIDS affects children and young people since   Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS was launched in October 2005 by   UNICEF, UNAIDS and other partners with a commitment to be accountable for   results. Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS is a call to action   around the impact of HIV and AIDS on children. It focuses on the needs of   children in four key areas, known as the “Four Ps”: preventing   mother-to-child transmission of HIV, providing paediatric treatment for   children infected with the virus, preventing new infections among   adolescents and young people, and protecting and supporting children   affected by HIV and AIDS.

About UNAIDS:
UNAIDS is an innovative joint venture of the United Nations, bringing   together the efforts and resources of the UNAIDS Secretariat and ten UN   system organizations in the AIDS response. The Secretariat headquarters   is in Geneva, Switzerland – with staff on the ground in more than 80
countries. Coherent action on AIDS by the UN system is coordinated in   countries through UN theme groups, and joint programmes on AIDS. UNAIDS’   Cosponsors include UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, ILO, UNESCO,   WHO and the World Bank. http://www.unaids.org/

About UNFPA:
UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international   development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child   to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries   in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty   and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every   young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated   with dignity and respect. http://www.unfpa.org/

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

About WHO:
As the directing and coordinating authority on international health, the   World Health Organization (WHO) takes the lead within the UN system in   the global health sector response to HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS Department   provides evidence-based, technical support to WHO Member States to help
them scale up treatment, care and prevention services as well as drugs   and diagnostics supply to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable response   to HIV/AIDS. http://www.who.int/

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.