UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima has observed that Year after year, the bold target of eliminating new HIV infections among children is being missed and children are dying needlessly from AIDS-related illnesses, even though simple and cheap treatments could save their lives.
The HIV response for children has fallen behind
despite great progress made since the early days of the epidemic. This is
according to the latest report on the progress towards the Start Free, Stay
Free, AIDS-Free targets, released as part of the ongoing AIDS2020 conference.
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie
Byanyima has observed that Year
after year, the bold target of eliminating new HIV infections among children is
being missed and children are dying needlessly from AIDS-related illnesses, even
though simple and cheap treatments could save their lives.
“To see so many tools available,
so many new HIV infections among children that have been prevented, so many children
living with HIV doing well, but to see others missed and still left behind is a
tragedy”, Byanyima said.
The Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free framework launched in 2016 by UAIDS and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for
AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is built
around three concepts: that babies have the right to be born HIV-free; that
children, adolescents and young women have the right to stay free from HIV
through prevention; and that those children and young people who acquire the virus
have the right to be diagnosed, treated and cared for so that they can remain
In line with these targets,
countries had agreed to reduce new HIV infections among children 14 and under,
to less than 40,000 by 2018, and 20,000 this year. However, data shows an estimated 150,000 children were newly
infected in 2019. While the figure represents a 52 per cent reduction since
2010, it is still four times the 2018 target.
Although 85 per cent of pregnant
women living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) in 2019, the
study shows unequal access to services means children are still becoming
infected. Countries also called
for providing ARVs to 1.4 million children living with HIV by 2020. Last year,
only 950,000 were reached.
“The lack of optimal HIV
medicines with suitable paediatric formulations has been a longstanding barrier
to improving health outcomes for children living with HIV, contributing towards
low treatment coverage”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World
Health Organization (WHO).
“Access to services for
vulnerable groups must be expanded through stronger community engagement,
improved service delivery and tackling stigma and discrimination.”
Despite the grim news, UNAIDS
said the world can still commit to achieving the Star Free, Stay Free. AIDS
“We can do better. We must do
better”, added Ms Byanyima. “We know how to save lives and stop new HIV
infections among children. I demand that we spare no effort. Anything less is