Aids-free generation achievable: UN

1 December 2010

An Aids-free generation is achievable if the international community steps up provision of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and social protection, while focusing on the most disadvantaged communities affected by HIV, says a new UN report marking World Aids Day.

According to “Children and Aids: Fifth Stocktaking Report 2010”, released in New York on Tuesday, while children worldwide have benefited enormously from stronger Aids responses, “there are millions of women and children who have fallen through the cracks due to inequities rooted in gender, economic status, geographical location, education level and social status.

“To achieve an Aids-free generation we need to do more to reach the hardest hit communities,” Anthony Lake, executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), said in a statement. “Every day, nearly 1 000 babies in sub-Sarahan Africa are infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission.

“Our Fifth Stocktaking Report on Children and Aids highlights innovations like the Mother Baby Pack that can bring life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to more mothers and their babies than ever before.”

According to the report, in low- and middle-income countries, 53% of pregnant women living with HIV received ARVs to prevent mother-to-child transmission in 2009, compared to 45% in 2008.

“One of the most significant increases occurred in Eastern and Southern Africa, where the proportion jumped ten percentage points, from 58% in 2008 to 68% in 2009.”

“We have strong evidence that elimination of mother-to-child transmission is achievable,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organisation. “Achieving the goal will require much better prevention among women and mothers in the first place.”

Young women still shoulder the greater burden of HIV infection, and in many countries women face their greatest risk of infection before age 25. Worldwide, more than 60% of all young people living with HIV are female. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is nearly 70%.

“We need to address gender inequalities, including those that place women and girls at disproportionate risk to HIV and other adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes,” said Irina Bokova, director-general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

“While we are encouraged by a decline in HIV incidence among young people of more than 25% in 15 key countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 2001 and 2009, we must do everything possible to sustain and increase such positive trends in order to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.”

The report also emphasises the importance of tailoring education programmes to target the most vulnerable young people – those who are out of school – with information about HIV prevention.

“We must increase investments in young people’s education and health, including sexual and reproductive health, to prevent HIV infections and advance social protection,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the UN Population Fund. “Reaching marginalised young people, including vulnerable adolescent girls and those who are not in school, must remain a priority.”

SAinfo reporter

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