Globally, over 2.1m kids under 15 have AIDS: UN

NEW DELHI: Over 2.1 million children below 15 years are living with HIV globally, most of them infected before their birth, during delivery or while being breastfed.

While around 4.2 lakh children were newly infected in 2007, an estimated 2.9 lakh children under 15 years died from AIDS the same year. Young people, aged 15-24, accounted for about 40% of new HIV infections in 2007.

Kounteya Sinha, from Times of India.

The number of HIV-positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants increased by 60% from 2005 to 2006, but even then, only 23% of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving ARTs.

These are the findings of ‘Children and AIDS: Second stock taking report’ — a review of the progress made and the challenges remaining in four key areas: preventing HIV transmission from mothers to children (PMTCT), providing paediatric treatment, preventing infection among adolescents and young people and protecting and supporting children affected by AIDS.

The report was launched by UNAIDS, WHO and Unicef on Thursday. []

Reacting to the report, India’s National AIDS Control Organisation told TOI that efforts to protect women and children were being continuously upscaled in the country.

According to Dr B B Rewari, NACO’s ART consultant, India estimates that 4% of the 2.6 million estimated HIV cases are children. “We have identified 31,620 HIV positive children of which 9,171 have been put on ART. The rest are constantly monitored and will be put on drugs when they become eligible. At present, we have paediatric ART formulations for 15,000 children donated to us by Clinton Foundation,” Dr Rewari said.

India till November 2006 did not have a paediatric formulation of ART doses which increased the lifespan of infected children by 10-15 years. Drugs were administered to children by dividing fractions of adult formulations according to the child’s age, which often led to under- or over-dosage, causing resistance to the drug.

On November 6, 2006, Sonia Gandhi released the treatment protocol for paediatric HIV cases under the National Paediatric HIV/AIDS Initiative. “About 35% of the 2.6 million estimated HIV cases are women of which 10% would require to be on ART. At present, 44,575 women are on ART. About 15%-35% of children get the infection from their mothers. However, the risk is halved when mothers are given a single dose of neviparine during pregnancy and children are given the medicine within 72 hours of birth,” Dr Rewari said.

HIV infection progresses more aggressively in infants than in adults. The immune system in childhood is underdeveloped and acquiring HIV infection early in a child’s life thwarts its further development. Early treatment within the first few months of life can dramatically improve the survival rate of children with HIV.

“Thousands of children lose their lives to AIDS every year, and millions have lost parents and caregivers. Children must be at the heart of the global AIDS agenda,” said Unicef executive director Ann M Veneman.

“Important gains have been made in addressing treatment needs for children and in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” said UNAIDS executive director Dr Peter Piot.

The report said the majority of children living with HIV could be saved by timely administration of paediatric ART.

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