Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Latest report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Global snapshot on children, HIV/ AIDS, released by UNICEF ahead of 2019 World AIDS Day, indicated that over 17, 000 Nigerian children and adolescents (47 daily) died of AIDS-related causes in 2018.
The report linked the high number of death to poor access to anti-retroviral treatment and limited prevention efforts.
It confirmed that only 54 percent of children aged 0-14 living with HIV globally in 2018 or 790,000 children, have access to lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy.
It revealed that access to treatment by children living with HIV in Nigeria was 35 percent. While mothers’ access to antiretroviral therapy to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies rose globally from 44 percent to 82 percent, the figure in Nigeria rose from 22 percent to 44 percent.
UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, in a statement released in Abuja, on Friday, admitted that significant progress has been made in the battle against HIV/AIDS, but insisted that more need to be done for Nigerian children and adolescents living with the virus.
He said: “It is good news that more pregnant women are receiving anti-retroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It has helped avert about 2 million new infections and prevented the deaths of over one million children under five years old around the world.
“Nevertheless, we must ensure that children who already have the virus are receiving lifesaving treatment. HIV programmes need to be fully funded and equipped to preserve, protect and improve the quality of life for Nigerian children.”
Additionally, the report revealed that, in 2018, around 160,000 children aged 0-9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children living with HIV to 1.1 million, globally.
Also, 89,000 children under the age of five were infected during pregnancy or birth and 76,000 were infected during breastfeeding in 2018. 140,000 adolescent girls were newly infected with HIV in 2018, compared to 50,000 adolescent boys, globally.
UNICEF, thus suggested that governments and global partners improve HIV testing and treatment data for children and adolescents to better respond to the needs of the vulnerable population.
It also advocated increased investment and implementation of effective and innovative interventions that would urgently close the persistent testing and treatment gap for children and adolescents living with HIV.