Decline in child HIV infections: UNAIDS

South Africa showed a 63 percent decline in new HIV infections among children in 2012, UNAIDS said on Tuesday.

"South Africa has shown tremendous progress in reducing the numbers of children and women acquiring HIV infection and in providing access to HIV treatment to both groups," UNAIDS said in a report.

"Strong political leadership and commitment has been translated into clear results for the people affected."

Compared with 2009, this meant 24,000 less children contracted the virus, according to the report on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015.

In 2012 a total of 14,000 children were infected with the virus in South Africa.

In 2010, 210,000 children were eligible for HIV therapy in South Africa.

According to UNAIDS, the HIV transmission rate from mother to child (including breastfeeding) in South Africa for 2012 was five percent. It was six percent in 2011, seven percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 2009.

The number of women acquiring HIV infection between the ages of 15 to 49 in 2012 was 150,000. In 2011 it was 200,000, in 2010 and 2009 it was 210,000.

This means 28 percent fewer women in that age group were newly infected with HIV, according to the UNAIDS study.

Ghana had a slighter higher decline in new infections at 76 percent.

Seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa -- Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia -- reduced new HIV infections among children by 50 percent since 2009.

Two others -- Tanzania and Zimbabwe -- were making substantial progress.

There were 130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children across the 21 Global Plan priority countries in Africa, a drop of 38 percent since 2009.

"The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts every child can be born free from HIV," said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS).

According to the report, four countries -- Botswana, Ghana, Namibia and Zambia -- already met their goal of providing antiretroviral medicines to 90 percent of the women who were eligible, to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child.

Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe were close behind.

The number of eligible children receiving antiretroviral therapy increased in all countries.

The percentage of eligible children up to age 14 receiving antiretroviral therapy in South Africa in 2012 was 67 percent.

In Botswana it was 95 percent, Namibia 87 percent, Swaziland 54 percent, Zimbabwe 45 percent, Zambia 38 percent, Mozambique 27 percent, Lesotho 25 percent, Angola 13 percent, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo nine percent.

The number of HIV positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral therapy for their own health is: Botswana 95 percent, Namibia 94 percent, Zambia 89 percent, Malawi 86 percent, South Africa 83 percent, Swaziland 79 percent, Ghana 76 percent, Kenya 58 percent, Zimbabwe 56 percent, Tanzania 53 percent, Lesotho 51 percent, Burundi 51 percent, Cameroon 44 percent, Ethiopia 38 percent, Mozambique 38 percent, Chad 32 percent, Cote D'Ivoire 32 percent, DRC 18 percent, and Nigeria 17 percent.

An Angolan figure was not available.

In Angola, new HIV infections have increased. Nigeria has the largest number of children acquiring HIV with nearly 60,000 new HIV infections among children in 2012.

According to the report the causes for the programme stalling needed to be identified. Children and women with HIV needed to be identified and placed on treatment to save their lives.

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