We have made impressive progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with more than 18 million people now accessing treatment. But the AIDS epidemic remains one of the major issues of our time and children are being left behind.
In 2015, 1.1 million women, children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV (of a total 2.1 million new infections). Every day, around 400 children become infected – enough to fill nearly six school buses. Far too many pregnant women living with HIV are still not receiving treatment and only half of HIV-exposed babies are tested for HIV by the recommended age of two months. Many children have dropped out of treatment, or never received it in the first place. For adolescents, the situation is especially dire – and for adolescent girls most of all. These facts threaten to unravel the fabric of the global community and the progress achieved in recent decades.
If AIDS is ever to be history, we must focus on the most vulnerable children and women. Addressing these three challenges is the clearest path to success.
Challenges we face
#1 – Children are still dying of AIDS-related causes
Only half of the 1.8 million children around the world who live with HIV are receiving treatment. And, because of the speed that HIV progresses in babies, children aged 0–4 years face the highest risk of AIDS-related death. Our AIDS response must focus on preventing new infections through improved access and retention in care, as well as testing for HIV and starting treatment early. We must also work to implement and adapt new science and solutions so that children can survive and thrive, especially in vulnerable populations..
#2 – Adolescent HIV infection rates projected to rise
The number of adolescents living with HIV has increased by 28 per cent since 2005. The world’s youth population is growing fast and the number of 10-24-year-olds in Africa alone set to rise to more than three quarters of a billion by 2060. This means that even if current progress is maintained, new HIV infections among adolescents are expected to increase. If progress is stalled, the results could be devastating. Estimates suggest that as many as 740,000 additional adolescents could become infected between 2016 and 2030.
#3 – Systems and resources are overstretched, while demands for HIV-prevention and treatment increase
Rising numbers of new infections and people living with HIV on treatment for life are now stretching existing health, education and protection systems to their limits, and make resilience, sustainability and investment more important than ever. The ‘Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free’ framework proposes a ‘super-fast-track’ approach to HIV prevention and treatment for children, adolescents and young women. The potential is huge – but it requires urgent commitment and collaboration.
Stories & Voices
From the field
When crises strike, making sure services to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS continue is crucial. Watch this short video about risk informed programming to learn how we can make communities more resilient.
Television soap opera MTV Shuga uses TV, the internet, social media, graphic novels and peer education to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people, reaching nearly 80 per cent of all countries in Africa.
Eighteen-year-old Yana Panfilova has spent the last eight years campaigning in her native Ukraine to raise awareness about HIV. Now, she is determined not to let her own condition stand in the way of her dreams.
Telemedicine can change the lives of children and adolescents who live with HIV by making health care more accessible to rural communities. In India, video conferencing is helping to provide specialized care.
More from our partners
From beneficiary to mentor, counsellor and voice for children living with HIV across Zimbabwe.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation has helped to launch a framework that calls for a worldwide sprint toward the end of AIDS in children, adolescents and young women by the time the decade is through.
Young people growing up with HIV have unique medical, psychological and social challenges they must face every day. How can we equip them with the knowledge and support they need to help them reach their potential?
ALL IN is about coming together to stop adolescent deaths, infections and violence caused by AIDS. Teens, parents, health professionals, activists – HIV positive or not – we are all in this together.