One child infected with HIV every two minutes in 2020 — UNICEF
A new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund< (UNICEF) has shown that, at least, one child globally was infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) every two minutes in 2020.
The report, which was released to commemorate the 2021 World AIDS Day (WAD), indicates that not less than 300,000 children globally were newly infected with HIV in 2020.
It also shows that 120,000 children died from AIDS-related causes during the same period, or one child every five minutes.
According to the report, two in five children living with HIV worldwide do not know their status, and just over half of children with HIV are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART)
World AIDS DAY<
WAD is celebrated December 1 every year to honour the people who have fallen to the disease as well as people living with HIV.
It is also celebrated to raise awareness on the disease and the need for people to know their status.
The theme of 2021 WAD is “End inequalities, End AIDS”.
Nigeria in retrospect<
The report shows that, at least, one Nigerian child between the ages 0-9 years was infected with HIV every 30 minutes in 2020.
This means that about 20,695 children in Nigeria were newly infected with HIV in 2020.
It also indicates that in Nigeria, about 30 per cent of AIDS-related deaths in 2020 occurred in children.
“Alarmingly, only about 3.5 per cent of the 1,629,427 Nigerians receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART) are children, revealing a big treatment gap,” the report said.
In Nigeria, almost eight out of 10 new infections occurring in adolescents aged 10-19 occur in adolescent girls, while an estimated 83,000 pregnant women in Nigeria are HIV positive.
Only 44 per cent of them are on ART, risking continued mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
COVID-19 and inequalities<
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, warned that a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the inequalities that have long driven the HIV epidemic.
Ms Fore said this is putting vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers at increased risk of missing life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services.
“The HIV epidemic enters its fifth decade amid a global pandemic that has overloaded health care systems and constrained access to life-saving services.
World AIDS Day 2021: Fear of stigma still hinders use of preventive drugs<
“Meanwhile, rising poverty, mental health issues, and abuse are increasing children and women’s risk of infection,” She said.
She said unless global leaders ramp up efforts to resolve the inequalities driving the HIV epidemic, “we may see more children infected with HIV and more children losing their fight against AIDS.”
Ms Fore warned that some barriers to adequate access to HIV services are longstanding and familiar, including discrimination and gender inequalities.
The report noted that many countries saw significant disruptions in HIV services due to COVID-19 in early 2020.
Due to the pandemic, HIV infant testing in high burden countries declined by 50 to 70 per cent, with new treatment initiations for children under 14 years of age falling by 25 to 50 per cent.
The report noted that although uptake of services rebounded in June 2020, coverage levels remain far below those before COVID-19, and the true extent of the impact remains unknown.
According to the report, in 2020, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 89 per cent of new HIV paediatric infections and 88 per cent of children and adolescents living with HIV worldwide.
Nigeria has the highest number of children and adolescents aged 0-19 years living with HIV in West and Central Africa, with an estimate of 190,000.
UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, said children and adolescents continue to be left behind in the HIV response around the world.
Mr Hawkins said teenage girls in Nigeria bear the heaviest burden of HIV.
“We must increase and sustain HIV investments to ensure children are born free of HIV and stay HIV-free throughout childhood and adolescence,” he said.
He noted that the HIV response must be increasingly integrated into all ongoing sector plans.
Mr Hawkins said the COVID-19 response presents an opportunity for Nigeria to take big strides to make strategic health system-wide investments that can benefit all children and adolescents.
“That must include meaningful engagement with all affected communities, especially the most vulnerable,” he said.