UN warns of stagnant progress in fight against AIDS

The United Nations warned on Monday that progress in HIV prevention and treatment for children, adolescents and pregnant women has virtually stagnated over the past three years.

In a statement on the occasion of World AIDS Day celebrated on December 1 each year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) lamented that nearly 110,000 children and adolescents (0-19 years ) died of AIDS-related causes in 2021, while another 310,000 people were newly infected, bringing the total number of young people living with HIV to 2.7 million.

“Although children have long lagged behind adults in the AIDS response, the stagnation seen over the past three years is unprecedented, putting too many young lives at risk of illness and death,” said Anurita Bains. , deputy head of the fight against HIV / AIDS at UNICEF, quoted in the press release.

She said the children are “falling through the cracks because we collectively fail to find them, test them and get them on life-saving treatment. Every day that passes without progress, more than 300 children and adolescents lose their fight against AIDS”.

Although they represent only 7% of all people living with HIV, children and adolescents accounted for 17% of all AIDS-related deaths and 21% of new HIV infections in 2021, lamented the UN. Unless the drivers of inequality are addressed, warns UNICEF, ending AIDS among children and adolescents will remain a distant dream.

However, the UN agency noted, longer-term trends remain positive, noting that new HIV infections among young children (0-14 years) fell by 52% between 2010 and 2021, and new infections among adolescents (15-19 years) also fell by 40%. Similarly, coverage of lifelong antiretroviral therapy among pregnant women living with HIV has increased from 46% to 81% in a single decade.

While the total number of children living with HIV is falling, the treatment gap between children and adults continues to grow. In UNICEF HIV priority countries, antiretroviral treatment coverage for children was 56% in 2020 but fell to 54% in 2021.

This decline is due to several factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic and other global crises, which have increased marginalization and poverty, but also reflects waning political will and a flagging AIDS response among children, explained the UN, adding that globally an even lower percentage of children living with HIV were accessing treatment (52%), which has only increased slightly in recent years.

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