Southern Africa reduces new – HIV infection among children
It is delightful to hear that our effort in Southern Africa to curb the effects of HIV/AIDS is bearing fruits.
Namibia and four other SADC countries are among seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have dramatically reduced the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009, according to the newly released UNAIDS report.
The report titled: “2013 Progress Report on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive”, cites Namibia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia as seven countries that have reduced new HIV infections among children by half since 2009.
In addition, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are also reportedly making substantial progress. This is encouraging news considering that globally Southern Africa is worst hit by the pandemic.
In West Africa, Ghana showed the greatest decline in the rate of new infections among children with 76 percent decline since 2009 while South Africa showed a 63 percent decline.
The report highlights that 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 Global Plan, a joint effort by the UNAIDS and the United States Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was unveiled in June 2011, which aims for a 90 percent reduction in the number newly infected with HIV and a 50 percent reduction in the number of AIDS-related maternal deaths by 2015.
The Plan focused on the 22 countries, which accounted for 90 percent of new HIV infections among children.
It is the second progress report, tracking the progress made by the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and highlight challenges they are facing in meeting the agreed targets for 2015.
Meanwhile, the report claim that the pace of decline in some of the priority countries has been slow like in Angola, where new HIV infections have even increased.
The further noted that 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 mother-to-child transmission rates in most countries, with Botswana and South Africa having reduced transmission rates to 5 percent or below.
UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé was quoted in the report as saying that progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts, every child can be born free from HIV.
“But progress has stalled in some countries with high numbers of new HIV infections. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up,” he said.
The report, however, also reveals that only half of all breastfeeding mothers 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 breastfeeding.
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, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have doubled the number 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, it also recommend that urgent steps need to be taken to improve early diagnosis of HIV in children and ensure timely access to antiretroviral treatment.
UNAIDS noted that the number of pregnant women living with HIV receiving antiretroviral therapy for their own health has increased since 2009.
Increasing access to antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women living with HIV for their own health is critical and 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.