‘In India over 14,000 children got infected in 2011’

With over 14,000 children getting infected with HIV in 2011 and there being over 10,000 deaths of children up to four years of age during the year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has noted in its latest report that while “new HIV infections in children are down, reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation requires that more HIV positive pregnant women receive anti-retroviral treatment to decrease the risk of infection for their babies.”

The organisation said: “In India over 14,000 children got infected in 2011, with a 13 per cent decline from 2009. The number of estimated deaths among children (0-14 years old) due to AIDS was 10,213 in 2011. The total number of people living with HIV in the country has seen a decline from approximately 2.3 million to 2.1 million. The drop has been much higher among men (16 per cent) than among women (2.6 per cent).”

Acknowledging that much progress has been made in the field of treatment, UNICEF has noted that in low and middle income countries, coverage of effective antiretroviral treatment for preventing mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) reached 57 per cent in 2011. Figures released by UNICEF indicate that in India the treatment coverage has increased over the years but using a single dose of Nevirapine as the more effective treatment used globally, as per guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for prevention of MTCT, is still to be scaled up nationwide. Regarding access to treatment of children in need, it increased from 6 per cent in 2006, when the paediatric HIV programme was launched in India, to 34 per cent in 2011.

UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said: “It is simply wrong that adults are twice as likely as children to receive the treatment they need. By definition, an AIDS-free generation depends on protecting the youngest and most vulnerable from HIV infection. We must still do more to help mothers and children who live with HIV to be able to live free from AIDS. We must rededicate ourselves to boosting the number of pregnant women and children being tested and treated through basic antenatal and child health programmes.”

Stating that UNICEF India will continue to focus on preventing parent-to-child transmission and eliminating new HIV infections among children, UNICEF India representative Louis Georges Arsenault said: “Treating HIV-positive pregnant women not only keeps them alive and well, but prevents babies from acquiring HIV during pregnancy, delivery and the breastfeeding period.”