Botswana is among seven African countries that have reduced new HIV infections among children by 50 percent since 2009 a new Global Plan report has revealed.
Global Plan is a United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS Programme (UNAIDS) aimed at eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive.
The report outlines that seven countries in sub-Saharan AfricaÔÇöBotswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and ZambiaÔÇöhave reduced new HIV infections among children by 50 percent since 2009. It highlights that there were 130 000 fewer new HIV infections among children across the 21 Global Plan priority countries in AfricaÔÇôÔÇôa 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 Sidib├®, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “But in some countries with high numbers of new infections progress has stalled. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up.”
With a 76 percent decline since 2009, Ghana showed the greatest decline in the rate of new infections among children and South Africa showed a 63 percent decline (24 000 fewer new HIV infections in 2012 than in 2009). However, the pace of decline in some of the Global Plan priority countries has been slow and in Angola, new HIV infections have even increased. New infections among children in NigeriaÔÇôÔÇôwhich has the largest number of children acquiring HIV (nearly 60 000 new HIV infections among children in 2012)ÔÇôÔÇôremained largely unchanged since 2009. Without urgent action in Nigeria the global target for 2015 may not be reached.
More pregnant women living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral medicines to prevent HIV from being transmitted to their children and for their own health in 2012 than in 2009, with coverage levels exceeding 75 percent in many countries. Increased coverage has reduced HIV transmission rates from mother to child in most countries. Botswana and South Africa have reduced transmission rates to 5 percent or below.
“We have the tools required to reach the Global Plan’s goals, and recent data show that we are moving ever closer to their realization,” said Ambassador Eric P. Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. “This month, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced, the one millionth baby will be born HIV-free due to PEPFAR’s support. Now, we must all continue working together to see the day when no children are born with HIV, which is within our reach,” he added.
The report, however, also reveals that only half of all breastfeeding women living with HIV or their children receive antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It outlines that breastfeeding is critical to ensuring child survival and strongly emphasizes the urgent need to provide antiretroviral therapy during the breastfeeding period.
More than half of the children eligible for treatment in South Africa and Swaziland now have access. Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe have doubled the numbers of children accessing treatment from 2009 to 2012. While the report outlines that the number of children requiring HIV treatment will reduce as new HIV infections decline, urgent steps need to be taken to improve early diagnosis of HIV in children and ensure timely access to antiretroviral treatment.
The number of pregnant women living with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy for their own health has increased since 2009. In Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia, more than 75 percent of the pregnant women eligible receive antiretroviral therapy and more than 50 percent in Kenya, Lesotho, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Increasing access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV for their own health is critical.