Although 370,000 children are born with HIV every year, mother-to-child transmission of the virus can be eliminated if the international community steps up efforts to provide universal access to prevention, treatment, and social protection, a new report from the United Nations argues.
The report, Children and AIDS: Fifth Stocktaking Report, 2010 (52 pages, PDF), highlights progress in providing antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment to pregnant women, better pediatric care and treatment, and sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents and youth. In low- and middle-income countries, 53 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women received ARVs in 2009, up from 45 percent in 2008, with a significant increase in southern and eastern Africa, where the number jumped from 58 percent to 68 percent.
At the same time, only 35 percent of infants born to HIV-positive mothers received ARVs, compared with 32 percent in 2008. To achieve the goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission, the authors argue, universal testing and a minimum of 95 percent ARV coverage is needed.
The report also notes that millions of women and children have fallen through the cracks due to inequities rooted in gender, geographic, educational, and socioeconomic status. Compiled jointly by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the report calls for a holistic approach to prevention that builds on the maternal and newborn health platform, integrates services, and addresses such inequities.
"We need to address gender inequalities, including those that place women and girls at disproportionate risk to HIV and other adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes," said UNESCO director general Irina Bokova. "While we are encouraged by a decline in HIV incidence among young people of more than 25 percent in fifteen key countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 2001 and 2009, we must do everything possible to sustain and increase such positive trends in order to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support."