Of the estimated 38.4 million people living with HIV worldwide in 2021, 2.73 million were children aged 0–19. Each day in 2021, approximately 850 children became infected with HIV and approximately 301 children died from AIDS related causes, mostly because of inadequate access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services.
In 2021, around 160,000 children aged 0–9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children aged 0–9 living with HIV to 1.02 million. Nearly 86 per cent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. One bright spot on the global horizon is the rapid decline of approximately 52 per cent in new HIV infections among children aged 0–9 since 2010 due to stepped-up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
However, the number of new HIV infections among adolescents aged 10–19 has declined at a slower rate of about 40 per cent.
The spread of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa is mostly through heterosexual relationships, both in the context of transactional and commercial sex and in longer-term relationships, including marriage. Current evidence in southern Africa has identified sexual relationships between adolescent girls or young women and older men as a common HIV transmission route. In addition, infants born to mothers living with HIV are at risk of becoming infected if their mothers are not on effective treatment or retained in care.
Children affected with HIV and AIDS go through social, psychological and physical challenges that affect their day to day activities. Some of these challenges can be depression and stress, weight loss, chronic illnesses, reduced parenting capacity as some of their parents may be dead, stigma and discrimination. These challenges can lead to some of these children dying at a very early age, despite of getting good medication.
Of the 1.68 million children aged 0-14 living with HIV globally, only 52 per cent were receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2021. Treatment and prevention for children and adolescents are the two areas of UNICEF’s work to stop HIV infections and AIDS deaths. Making sustainable gains in this work requires increased commitment, better policies and more funds at the global, regional and national levels. UNICEF is committed to ending AIDS by 2030, in line with global targets, and to making HIV services easier to access. UNICEF’s core objective are eliminating mother-to-child transmission, preventing HIV in adolescents and young women and ensuring the timely initiation and retention of children and adolescents in treatment.
The government, concerned stakeholders and care givers should try and hold forums and seminars to educate people on how to handle and care for people with HIV and AIDS. In addition, they should also ensure that children and adolescents affected have good medication.