‘47 Nigerian children, adolescents died daily from AIDS-related causes in 2018’
No fewer than 47children and adolescents died daily from AIDS-related causes in 2018, according to a global snapshot on children, HIV, and AIDS released by UNICEF in advance of World AIDS Day.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) Communication Officer (Advocacy, Media & External Relations), Enugu Office, Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, dated November 29 and made available to journalists in Calabar, Cross River State.
UNICEF’s Nigeria Country Representative, Peter Hawkins said, “Low access to anti-retroviral treatment and limited prevention efforts are the leading causes for these deaths, with only 54 per cent of children aged from 0-14 years living with HIV globally in 2018–or 790,000 children–receiving lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy.
“Progress has been made in the battle against HIV and AIDS, but we must do more, especially when it comes to Nigerian children and adolescents. Testing and treating children and adolescents is a matter of life and death–and we must choose life.”
She revealed that the latest global data showed that “regional disparities in access to treatment among children living with HIV is very high-with West and Central Africa faring worst. Access is highest in South Asia at 91 per cent, followed by the Middle East and North Africa (73 per cent), East and South Africa (61 per cent), East Asia and the Pacific (61 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (46 per cent) and West and Central Africa (28 per cent).”
She stated that access to treatment by children living with HIV in Nigeria is only 35 per cent, while mothers’ access to anti-retroviral therapy to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies has increased globally, however, reaching 82 per cent, up from 44 per cent less than 10 years ago.
“This figure in Nigeria is 44 per cent, up from 22 per cent in 2009. It is good news that more pregnant women are receiving anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which has helped avert about two million new HIV infections and prevented the deaths of over one million children under five years old around the word.
“But we need to see the same kind of progress in ensuring that children who already have the virus are receiving lifesaving treatment. HIV programmes need to be fully funded and equipped to preserve, protect and improve the quality of life for Nigerian children. We cannot and must not abandon these children,” Hawkins added.
Additional data from the report showed that in 2018, about 160,000 children aged 0-9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children in this age group living with HIV to 1.1 million, while 89,000 children under the age of five were infected during pregnancy or birth and 76,000 were infected during breastfeeding in 2018.
Also, 140,000 adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV in 2018, compared to 50,000 adolescent boys.
“To end HIV/AIDS as a public health threat for future generations, UNICEF is urging governments and partners to improve HIV testing and treatment data for children and adolescents to better respond to the needs of this vulnerable population.
“Governments should also invest in and implement effective and innovative interventions to urgently close the persistent testing and treatment gaps for children and adolescents living with HIV,” she said.