The world saw more progress on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 2009 to 2015 than in the previous decade. Still, 90% of new HIV infections in children are in sub-Saharan Africa and transition of treatment for pregnant women living with HIV is too slow. Less than 1 in 4 children and adolescents living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV is frequently undiagnosed and underestimated in under-5 deaths. HIV is often an indirect cause linked to other causes of death, including diarrhea, pneumonia, neonatal causes, malaria, and TB. UNICEF is working across the first two decades of life to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to end the AIDS epidemic among adolescents by 2030.
To support this effort, from 2007-2014, roughly 50% of funds collected through Change for Good supported UNICEF’s critical fight against HIV and AIDS globally. During that time, Champions for Children collected nearly $3.4 million to support this epidemic, helping UNICEF in its mission to achieve an AIDS-free generation by:
• Ensuring the health of pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV
• Making sure that children have access to antiretroviral therapy
• Focusing on prevention and treatment during adolescence, so that children remain AIDS-free in the second decade of life
• Ensuring social protection and child protection, care and support through the first two decades of life
With the funds collected by Champions, UNICEF is expanding transmission-prevention services for pregnant women who often pass the virus onto their newborns. UNICEF and partners also provide pediatric treatment to support children orphaned or impoverished by HIV through the provision of social and health programs, and work to protect marginalized adolescents who are particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus. UNICEF also strives to protect adolescents’ rights to access treatment and care, to remove any stigmas associated with HIV and AIDS in their communities, and to strengthen the participation of youth in infection-prevention programs.
Stories from the Field
Here is one example of the type of lifesaving work that Champions’ funds have supported. Maria Isabel, a Bolivian young mother of a three-year-old boy, tested positive for HIV a few years ago.
“I summoned up the courage to go to a medical center where I took the Elisa [HIV] test. When I heard the result I was horrified, I could not stop crying.” It was explained to Maria Isabel how to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
“I saw that my son was growing without showing signs of the disease, and then I decided that I should strive to live, especially for my child. I returned to La Paz to be with my family and to start treatment. When my son was a year and a half we did the Elisa test and he was HIV negative. This immense joy motivated me to give advice on the prevention of vertical transmission, and child nutrition for pregnant women based on my experience. I explained that life is not over just because you know that you are HIV-positive.”
Thanks to UNICEF, Maria Isabel can give advice to many pregnant women on the importance of taking the HIV test as part of the regular prenatal care package.
Another story that gives hope is the one of Irina, a healthy one-year-old in Balti, Moldova, because her mother received antiretroviral treatment. Tamara, age 23 years, contracted HIV when she was a teenager. She faced stigma and discrimination. “I felt depressed and had the feeling that nobody cared,” Tamara recalled.
But Tamara’s life changed for the better. At a health facility for young people, supported by UNICEF, she found safety, acceptance and medical care for herself and her children, as well as counseling and peer support. Tamara has been living with HIV for many years but she is healthy and her children are both HIV-negative.
In addition to helping mothers like Maria Isabel and Tamara, another example of how Champions’ collections are helping UNICEF combat HIV/AIDS is the Health and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)/AIDS Prevention in Schools program in Brazil. The main type of activities supported through this program included: training professionals in health, education and strategies for social mobilization and prevention of STDs, HIV and AIDS; multiplying knowledge among adolescents on sexuality and prevention of STDs/HIV and AIDS in low-income communities; and the creation and dissemination of a comprehensive guide on reproductive education among young people, developed in partnership with UNESCO.
Another type of initiative of Champions’ donations have supported is the project on STDs/AIDS prevention with street children in Brazil. The project supported and protected more than 4,000 street children in four Brazilian cities (Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) through the improvement of their health and social conditions.
These are just a few of the critical projects that have been made possible because of the support of Champions for Children.