One child infected with HIV every two minutes in 2020 – UNICEF

JOHANNESBOURG / NEW YORK, November 29, 2021 – At least 300,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, or one child every two minutes, UNICEF said in a report released today. During the same period, 120,000 children died from AIDS-related causes, or one child every five minutes.

The latest global report on HIV and AIDS, entitled HIV and AIDS Global Snapshot (Global Snapshot of the HIV and AIDS Epidemic), warns that the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the inequalities that have long characterized the HIV epidemic; as a result, vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are at increased risk of being deprived of life-saving prevention and treatment services.

“The HIV epidemic is entering its fifth decade as a global pandemic is raging which has saturated health systems and restricted access to vital services. At the same time, increasing poverty, mental health problems and child abuse increase the risk of infection among children and women, ”said Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Unless we step up efforts to address the inequalities that mark the HIV epidemic, now exacerbated by COVID-19, the number of children living with HIV is likely to increase, as will the number of those who will lose their fight against AIDS. “

It is alarming that two in five children living with HIV around the world do not know their HIV status, and that just over half of children with HIV receive antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. Some of the barriers to adequate access to HIV-related services are long-standing and well-known, including discrimination and gender inequalities.

The report highlights that in many countries, HIV services were significantly disrupted in early 2020 due to COVID-19. In hard-hit countries, HIV testing among children has fallen from 50% to 70% and the introduction of new treatments for children under 14 has fallen from 25% to 50%. Lockdowns have contributed to rising infection rates due to outbreaks of gender-based violence, limited access to follow-up care and stockouts of basic commodities. Several countries have also experienced a significant decrease in the number of deliveries in health facilities, HIV tests among mothers and the initiation of antiretroviral treatment. An extreme example is South Asia, where the number of pregnant women on antiretroviral therapy dropped dramatically from 71% to 56% in 2020.

Even though these services resumed in June 2020, the level of coverage remains well below what it was before COVID-19, and the actual impact of these disruptions remains unknown. In addition, in areas hard hit by HIV, the persistence of the pandemic could further disrupt health care services and accentuate disparities in the global AIDS response, the report said.

In 2020, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 89% of new cases of pediatric HIV infections and 88% of HIV-positive children and adolescents worldwide, with adolescent girls’ risk of becoming infected with HIV six times higher than for women. the boys. In addition, the region accounts for nearly 88% of AIDS-related child deaths.

Despite the progress made over the past decade in the fight against HIV and AIDS, children and adolescents in all regions continue to be left behind, the report laments. Globally, the coverage rate for antiretroviral treatment among children remains far behind that of pregnant women (85%) and adults (74%). It is highest in South Asia (> 95%), followed by the Middle East and North Africa (77%), East Asia and the Pacific (59% ), East and Southern Africa (57%), Latin America and the Caribbean (51%) and West and Central Africa (36%).

Other data for the year 2020 included in the report:

  • 150,000 children between the ages of 0 and 9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of HIV-positive children in this age group to 1.03 million.
  • 150,000 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 have been newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of adolescents with HIV to 1.75 million.
  • 120,000 adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV, compared to 35,000 adolescent boys.
  • There have been 120,000 AIDS-related deaths among children and adolescents – 86,000 among children aged 0-9 and 32,000 among adolescents aged 10-19.
  • In East and Southern Africa, the annual rate of new infections among adolescents has fallen by 41% since 2010, while in the Middle East and North Africa, infections have increased by 4% during the same period .
  • Last year, 15.4 million children lost one or both of their parents to causes attributable to AIDS. Three quarters of these children, or 11.5 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. While children orphaned by AIDS represent 10% of all orphans in the world, 35% of all children without parents live in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Building back better in a post-pandemic world involves implementing evidence-based, people-centered, resilient, sustainable and, above all, equitable responses to HIV,” recalls Henrietta Fore. “To address the disparities, these initiatives must be based on a strengthened health care system and the concrete engagement of all affected communities, especially the most vulnerable. “


Notes to editors:

Correction: A previous version of the press release contained a data error on the number of children newly infected with HIV in 2020.


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