World AIDS Day: Big Strides Towards an AIDS-Free Generation

A new UNICEF report shows significant progress in the fight against AIDS in children. New HIV infections among children under 15 declined by 35% from 2009 to 2012—more than the entire preceding decade.

The Children and AIDS: Sixth Stocktaking Report 2013 was released on Friday, just in time for World AIDS Day. It highlights recent achievements towards two big UNICEF targets: eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.

In the past three years, high-infection countries have begun placing women’s health at the center of the fight against AIDS with programs that provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) during the mother-to-child transmission risk period. As a result, 62% of pregnant women living with HIV in 22 high-infection “priority” countries were covered by antiretroviral drugs in 2012.

These 22 priority countries represent 90 percent of where new HIV infections in children occur. 21 are in Africa, but recent progress in these countries means that the term “AIDS in Africa” may now be out of date. In fact, a ONE report shows that “the beginning of the end of AIDS” might soon be in sight, if rapid progress continues.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done to meet the 2015 deadline to eliminate new HIV infections in children. The AIDS epidemic that began over 25 years ago continues to affect millions of children around the world. Up to 300,000 children were newly infected with HIV in priority countries during 2012. Only 34% of children under 15 in low- to middle-income countries were covered by ART in 2012—about half the adult coverage. Infants with HIV are especially vulnerable—if untreated, one third will die before their first birthday.

The first decade of life is a critical point in preventing HIV infection, but the report emphasizes that the second decade is just as important. Sexual education, child protection and programs to support gender equality are key to ensuring the children who have been HIV-free in the first decade of their lives remain HIV-free throughout their teen years. Approximately 2.1 million adolescents around the world were living with HIV at the end of 2012, and almost two thirds of new HIV infections in those aged 15-19 were among girls.

AIDS not only affects children living with HIV; it also affects children who have lost parents to it. Join us in the fight against AIDS. Visit www.childrenandaids.org to learn more and read the full report.