United Nations Children’s Fund revealed that, about 30 per cent of AIDS-related deaths in 2020 occurred in children in Nigeria.
READ ALSO: 150,000 children are born HIV positive in Nigeria
This was disclosed in a report released yesterday ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1, UNICEF said in Nigeria, 20,695 children aged 0-9 years were newly infected with HIV in 2020 – or one child every 30 minutes.
The report showed that only about 3.
5 per cent of the 1,629,427 Nigerians receiving antiretroviral treatments are children, revealing a big treatment gap.
“In Nigeria, almost eight out of ten new infections occurring in adolescents aged 10-19 occur in adolescent girls, while an estimated 83,000 pregnant women in Nigeria are HIV positive.
Only 44 per cent of them are on ART, risking continued mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The UN agency added that Nigeria has the highest number of children and adolescents aged 0-19 years living with HIV in West and Central Africa, with an estimate of 190,000.
The report noted that globally, at least 300,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, or one child every two minutes.
It said another 120,000 children died from AIDS-related causes during the same period, or one child every five minutes.
The latest HIV and AIDS Global Snapshot warns that a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the inequalities that have long driven the HIV epidemic, putting vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers at increased risk of missing life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services.
“The HIV epidemic enters its fifth decade amid a global pandemic that has overloaded health care systems and constrained access to life-saving services.
Meanwhile, rising poverty, mental health issues, and abuse are increasing children and women’s risk of infection,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
“Unless we ramp up efforts to resolve the inequalities driving the HIV epidemic, which are now exacerbated by COVID-19, we may see more children infected with HIV and more children losing their fight against AIDS.
Press statement disclosed that “Alarmingly, two in five children living with HIV worldwide do not know their status, and just over half of children with HIV are receiving“ antiretroviral treatment.
Some barriers to adequate access to HIV services are longstanding and familiar, including discrimination and gender inequalities.
The report notes that many countries saw significant disruptions in HIV services due to COVID-19 in early 2020, adding that HIV infant testing in high burden countries declined by 50 to 70 per cent, with new treatment initiations for children under 14 years of age falling by 25 to 50 per cent.
“Although uptake of services rebounded in June 2020, coverage levels remain far below those before COVID-19, and the true extent of the impact remains unknown.
“In 2020, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 89 per cent of new HIV paediatric infections and 88 per cent of children and adolescents living with HIV worldwide, with adolescent girls six times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys.
Some 88 per cent of AIDS-related child deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa,” the statement noted.
UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Peter Hawkins said children and adolescents continue to be left behind in the HIV response around the world.
Hawkins said “In Nigeria, teenage girls also bear the heaviest burden.
We must increase and sustain HIV investments to ensure children are born free of HIV and stay HIV-free throughout childhood and adolescence.
“This is a shared responsibility.
The HIV response must be increasingly integrated into all ongoing sector plans.
The COVID-19 response presents an opportunity for Nigeria to take big strides to make strategic health system-wide investments that can benefit all children and adolescents.
That must include meaningful engagement with all affected communities, especially the most vulnerable
The Regional Director for Africa World Health Organisation Dr.
Matshidiso Moeti revealed that Africa is unlikely to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 after the continent fell short of the expected 75 per cent reduction in new HIV infections and 81 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths by 2020.
This was disclosed in a statement yesterday, WHO said despite the very high percentages of people living with HIV who know their status, and treatment rates, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing concomitantly.
According to Moeti, the continent cannot afford to lose focus on the urgent need to end the inequities that drive AIDS and other epidemics around the world.
“It has been 40 years since the first HIV cases were reported.
Yet, in Africa and globally, it remains a major public health concern.
“Last year, two out of every three new HIV infections occurred in the African Region, corresponding to almost 2,500 new HIV infections every day.
Sadly, AIDS claimed the lives of 460,000 people, or a shocking 1,300 every day, in spite of free access to effective treatment.
“The challenges notwithstanding, Africa has made significant progress against HIV in the past decade, reducing new infections by 43 per cent and nearly halving AIDS-related deaths.
In the Region, 86 percent of people living with HIV know their status, and 76 per cent are receiving antiretroviral therapy.
“We also salute Botswana, which is on the home stretch to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission in what is a truly remarkable public health success.
Only 16 countries have been certified for eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission, none of which had as large an epidemic,” she said.
Moeti noted that it is critical to reach those who are fuelling the epidemic, address the persistent inequities in the provision of quality care and interventions.
“For instance, in West and Central Africa last year, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 72 per cent of new adult HIV infections.
Yet punitive laws, policies, hostile social and cultural environments, and stigma and discrimination, including in the health sector, prevent them from accessing servicesinfections.
Yet punitive laws, policies, hostile social and cultural environments, and stigma and discrimination, including in the health sector, prevent them from accessing services.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.
For adolescents aged 15 to19 years, three in every five new infections are among girls who don’t have access to comprehensive sexuality education, who face sexual and gender-based violence and live with harmful gender norms.
They also have less access to school than their male peers,” she said.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa noted that with COVID-19, people living with HIV appear to be at elevated risk for virus-related illness and death and nearly 70 percent live in the WHO African Region, where only 4.
5 percent of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“As efforts to tackle COVID-19 continue gathering force, and the world prepares itself against future pandemics, we risk repeating many of the same mistakes that have kept us from ending AIDS.
Addressing inequality is critical to ending both AIDS and COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics – potentially saving millions of lives, and safeguarding our society.
We must ensure that everyone, everywhere, has equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care, including COVID-19 vaccinations and services.
“This World AIDS Day, I urge governments to prioritize investment in health funding for community-led, human rights-based, gender transformative responses.
We must boost our essential health workforce, and secure equitable access to life-saving medicines and health technologies.
“Global solidarity and shared responsibility are critical components of the kind of rights-based approach we need if we are to end HIV/AIDS and COVID-19,” she said.
30% AIDS-related deaths occurs in Nigerian 2020 –UNICEF