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Children and AIDS: Fourth Stocktaking Report

Four years ago the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other partners launched the global campaign Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS in order to create awareness and to mobilize resources to combat the effects of HIV/AIDS on children and young people. Since then, a lot of progress has been booked, the recently released fourth stocktaking report Children and AIDS shows. According to the report, antiretroviral (ARV) regimens for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV are now reaching 45 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women globally and as such are saving many young lives.

Children and AIDS, a joint effort by UNICEF, UNAIDS, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), looks at progress made in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission; in paediatric care and treatment; in preventing infection among adolescents and young people, in protection, care and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS. The report clearly shows optimism in the prevention and protection of women and children from HIV/AIDS, as it states that “there is much optimism that equity in access to HIV care and treatment is within our grasp.” However, it also warns that the world is not there yet as it highlights that “The world is not yet on track to meet targets for prevention, treatment, care and support.” One of the reasons, for example, is that “significant progress in expanding access to early infant diagnosis is not matched by progress in linking it to early treatment.”

Some key requirements for more effective prevention, treatment, care and support that are mentioned in the report are to decentralize and strengthen health systems; to better understand local circumstances around the epidemic; to strengthen social protection in times of economic hardship; to reach out to men and boys with prevention messages; and to invest more in social systems to scale up support for vulnerable children affected by AIDS. The latter is particularly important, considering a quote in the report by Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, who says “A mother should not have to choose between continuing AIDS treatment and feeding her children.”

The report furthermore recognizes the importance of civil society in addressing the above mentioned issues as it notes “Community- and faith-based organizations have an important role in delivering, coordinating and monitoring services for children in communities affected by AIDS.”

Concluding, the report notes that it is time to follow through on commitments and calls for an acceleration in the scale-up of PMTCT services and early infant diagnosis in order to contribute to the elimination of HIV transmission to young children; the need to continuously seek out new evidence to inform HIV prevention; the support and empowerment of adolescents, particularly girls, to identify and respond to their own vulnerabilities; the protection of the rights of adolescents and young people living with HIV to receive good-quality support and services; the guarantee that adolescents who are in situations of the greatest risk are reached by HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services; the need to address sexual violence against girls and women and to scale up child-sensitive social protection. It also underlines the need to strengthen community capacity to respond to the needs of children affected by AIDS by preventing the separation of families and to improve the quality of alternative care; to strengthen whole systems so that gains made on behalf of women and children affected by AIDS can be extended and sustained; and to improve data gathering and analysis.

The report is available online.