Teenagers are increasingly becoming HIV positive
Urgent action is needed to improve HIV prevention and treatment for young people‚ Unicef says‚ projecting that new HIV infections among adolescents are projected to soar. Girls are particularly vulnerable.
The respected world agency says; “New HIV infections among adolescents are projected to rise from 250‚000 in 2015 to nearly 400‚000 annually by 2030 if progress in reaching adolescents stalls.”
“Every two minutes‚ another adolescent – most likely a girl – will be infected with HIV. If we want to end Aids‚ we need to recapture the urgency this issue deserves – and redouble our efforts to reach every child and every adolescent‚” says Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.
Aids is a leading cause of death among adolescents‚ claiming the lives of 41‚000 adolescents aged 10-19 in 2015‚ according to the 7th Stocktaking Report on Children and Aids: For Every Child: End Aids.
Globally‚ there were nearly two million adolescents aged 10 -19 living with HIV in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa‚ the region most impacted by HIV‚ girls accounted for three out of every four new infections among adolescents aged 15-19.
“Aids may not be the death sentence it was just a decade ago‚ but it’s certainly still a threat to millions of adolescents around the world‚ and will pose a growing threat if we don’t act now‚” says David Morley‚ Unicef Canada President and CEO. “Despite our progress‚ we can’t become complacent. We must maintain the momentum‚ commitment and funding to protect‚ diagnose and treat the world’s children and youth and end the Aids epidemic once and for all.”
The report proposes strategies for accelerating progress in preventing HIV among adolescents and treating those who are already infected. These include:
-Investing in innovation including in locally grown solutions.
-Strengthening data collection.
-Ending gender discrimination including gender-based violence and countering stigma.
-Prioritizing efforts to address adolescents’ vulnerabilities by providing a combination of prevention efforts including pre-exposure prophylaxis‚ cash transfers and comprehensive sexuality education.
Unicef noted that “remarkable progress” has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Globally‚ 1.6 million new infections among children were averted between 2000 and 2015‚ it says.
However‚ 1.1 million children‚ adolescents and women were newly infected in 2015 — and treatment comes too late.
Children aged 0–4 living with HIV face the highest risk of Aids-related deaths‚ compared with all other age groups‚ and they are often diagnosed and treated too late.
“Only half of the babies born to HIV-positive mothers receive an HIV test in their first two months‚ and the average age that treatment begins among children with vertically acquired HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is nearly four years old.”