The number of children contracting HIV and syphilis has been declining in the region, but it is still far too high. In 2014 alone, an average of 57 children contracted HIV every day.
This week, UNICEF is working with regional government and partners, including WHO, and UNAIDS in China to layout a road-map to help make HIV and syphilis a thing of the past throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
UNICEF works tirelessly throughout the world to help eradicate the parent to child transmission of HIV and syphilis. The stories below show the challenges parents and children face, and the work UNICEF is doing with governments in the Asia-Pacific region to help create an AIDS free generation.
Cambodia: Preventing mother to child transmission of HIV
Ngin Eng (aged 24) found out early that she was expecting a baby but did not visit the health centre for antenatal care until a member of the community’s Voluntary Health Support Group met her when she was four months pregnant.
At their local health centre, Eng and her husband Math Nasy (aged 23) learned that her pregnancy was progressing smoothly. They also found out that they were both HIV positive. Since then, they received the care and support they needed to stay healthy and keep their baby HIV negative by preventing the parent to child transmission of HIV.
UNICEF is working in close partnership with the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs and the National Maternal and Child Health Centre to support this Ministry of Health approach to provide effective communication, referrals and treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Myanmar: A better quality of life for children and parents with HIV
The bad news arrived in May 2014, when Aye Thidar Thwa (fake name) went for an antenatal care at the local Hospital in Ye Kyi Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region in Myanmar. The 34 year-old lady not only received the tetanus vaccination and but was also tested for HIV.
“When I discovered the HIV test was positive, I was depressed and, at first, couldn’t accept it”, she recalled. “Counselling made me react”.
As a result of the effective counselling received during antenatal care, she had an uneventful delivery. Moreover, she opted for exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months.
“During this difficult process, we were very well treated and we appreciated all services received, such as the HIV point of care testing, the early infant diagnosis and treatment”, said Aye Thidar Thwa. “Knowing the HIV status of our baby as early as 4 weeks will have a positive impact on the life of our child and the entire family”, she concluded.
Viet Nam: Buddhist monks join the fight against HIV stigma
Chief monk Huan organizes Buddhist teachings twice a week. “Through these sessions, we aim to reduce stigma around HIV and we share information on HIV: how it is transmitted, how to protect oneself. Over 2,000 children and young people have attended these sessions in the past two years”, he says.
Approximately 220,000 adults and children are infected with HIV in Viet Nam. In a country where over 80 per cent of the population is Buddhist, Buddhist monks are extremely respected and highly influential.
The Buddhist Leadership Initiative was established by UNICEF Viet Nam in 2003. Through the initiative, UNICEF works closely with the government and international partners to train monks to support the special needs of people affected by HIV and to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS in communities, including to help prevent the parent to child transmission of HIV.
China: Peer education saves parents and baby
Her children were dying, but Miya never imagined AIDS was involved. “My husband and I tried everything we could but ultimately two of our children passed away,” she says.
It was a tragic story. “My eldest daughter died just before her second birthday. Our second child did not reach her sixth month,” said Miya.
Fortunately, her family finally got the help they needed thanks to UNICEF and Government support. “We never thought of AIDS,” said Miya. “It was only after a self-help group took us to do a test that we found out we are HIV-positive. Now we are on ARV treatment, and I have a healthy baby. The project saved us, my husband, our baby and me.”
Lao PDR: Working to eliminate paediatric HIV by 2015
Newly-wed Mrs. Vongsali recalls her shock and sadness when, three months pregnant, she found out she was living with HIV. “What worried me most was that I would give my child HIV too,” she explained.
Social stigma and lack of understanding means that most people living with HIV keep it a secret. It took Mrs Vongsali’s husband two months before he told her and brought her to the hospital to be tested. Both Mr and Mrs Vongsali have told no one of their HIV positive status. “Only my husband and I know,” she says. “I haven’t even told my family who we live with.”
Fortunately, Mrs Vongsali found out she was living with HIV early enough to be able to protect her child. UNICEF supports organisations that provide guidance and counselling as well as activities that raise awareness and understanding among communities and school children to reduce stigma and discrimination.
Viet Nam: Phuong’s case: A catalyst for action
Cute little Phuong was named by nurses in the Hanoi hospital ward where she was born. She has HIV, transmitted by her mother who abandoned her shortly after her birth. Hard as they tried, the nurses at Hanoi Maternity Hospital in Viet Nam’s capital city were unable to find a home for the newborn baby. The response from childcare centres, including those for orphans and disabled children, was always the same: negative. So Phuong had no choice but to stay on at the children’s ward.