Efforts towards ending AIDS among children, adolescents and young women have stalled as none of the targets for 2020 were met, the final report from the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free campaign by UNAIDS has revealed.
The report shows that the total number of children on treatment declined for the first time, despite the fact that nearly 800 000 children living with HIV are not on treatment. It also shows that opportunities to identify infants and young children living with HIV early enough are passing by, as more than one-third of children born to mothers living with HIV were not tested.
If untreated, around 50% of children living with HIV die before they reach their second birthday. “Over 20 years ago, initiatives for families and children to prevent vertical transmission and to eliminate children dying of AIDS truly kick-started what has now become our global AIDS response.
This stemmed from an unprecedented activation of all partners, yet, despite early and dramatic progress, despite more tools and knowledge than ever before, children are falling way behind adults and way behind our goals,” said Shannon Hader, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Programs.
Adding that “The inequalities are striking. Children are nearly 40% less likely than adults to be on life-saving treatment. 54% of children versus 74% of adults and account for a disproportionate number of deaths. Just 5% of all people living with HIV are children, but children account for 15% of all AIDS-related deaths”.
Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS-Free is a five-year framework that began in 2015, following the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. It called for a super Fast-Track approach to ensure that every child has an HIV-free beginning, stay HIV-free through adolescence and that every child and adolescent living with HIV has access to antiretroviral therapy.
The approach intensified focus on 23 countries, 21 of which were in Africa that accounted for 83% of the global number of pregnant women living with HIV, 80% of children living with HIV and 78% of young women aged 15–24 years newly infected with HIV.