The face of HIV/AIDS has dramatically changed in the last 15 years. An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence: early detection, together with treatment and care, can ensure long, healthy lives and prevent transmission of the virus to others. With simplified, more efficient and cost-effective methods, HIV prevention, testing and treatment are now more widely available to marginalized children in remote areas and in emergency settings.
The latest data on children with AIDS reveals several surprising facts about the current situation and how we must improve to make ending AIDS by 2030 a real possibility.
- We are getting closer to eliminating new HIV infections among babies. Between 2000 and 2014, 1.3 million new infections were prevented. Innovative programming has helped more mothers and their babies get tested and receive treatment, leading to an astonishing 60 per cent reduction in the number of AIDS-related deaths for children under 4 years of age. For example, in Malawi – where road infrastructure is weak – the government and UNICEF have started testing the use of drones to reduce waiting times for HIV testing of infants. The drones are able to fly blood samples quickly across greater distances, so that children who need treatment can start early. This innovation will cut costs and waiting times drastically, and if successful, will be integrated into the national health system.
- Despite progress, the number of affected children being treated is inexcusably low. Less than half of children are tested for HIV before they reach two months of age. Moreover, of the 2.6 million children under age 15 that are living with HIV, only one in three is being treated. In Côte d’Ivoire, where 63,000 children have HIV, community health workers motivate mothers and their babies to get tested, and support those who have tested positive by monitoring their treatment schedules and providing practical advice on how to stay healthy. This type of community-level work is essential to ensure that affected children – particularly those living in remote areas without access to appropriate health services – get the medical and psychosocial care they need.
- Turning the tide against AIDS will require a focus on adolescents and young people. Every hour, an alarming 26 adolescents between 15 and 19 years old are infected with HIV. Since 2000, adolescent deaths due to AIDS have tripled. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa ages 10 to 19, and the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally. ALL IN to #EndAdolescentAIDS is a platform for action and collaboration to turn the tide against AIDS by driving better results with and for adolescents. It aims to unite actors across sectors, strengthen partnerships, and foster the participation of adolescents to reduce AIDS-related deaths by 65 per cent and new HIV infections among adolescents by 75 per cent by 2020.
The new sustainable development agenda has reinvigorated global efforts to end AIDS. Goal 3 aims to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. As we look forward, investing in adolescents, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and India, will be key to achieving an AIDS-free world for all.