By Ijeoma Ukazu |
The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) has said that almost 15 percent of global AIDS-related deaths in children and adolescents globally occur in Nigeria.
In a report released to mark the 2020 World AIDS Day, UNICEF says, approximately every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was newly infected with HIV last year, bringing the total number of children living with HIV globally to 2.8 million.
While in Nigeria, about 22,000 new infections occurred in children aged 0-14 years in 2019.
According to the UNICEF report, it warns that children are being left behind in the fight against HIV, adding that COVID-19 contributed to disruptions to HIV service delivery in one third of high burden countries.
The report further reads; “prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations. In 2019, a little more than half of children worldwide had access to life-saving treatment, significantly lagging behind coverage for both mothers (85 per cent) and all adults living with HIV (62 per cent). Nearly 110,000 children died of AIDS that year. In Nigeria 13,000 children aged 0-14 years died of AIDS-related causes in 2019.
“Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children,” the report says.
The UN body said that, pediatric coverage of antiretroviral treatment is highest in the Middle East and North Africa, at 81 percent, and lowest in West and Central Africa (32 percent). In Nigeria, it is 36 percent.
According to the UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, ” the world is still struggling with the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, but there is now hope for a vaccine. But we must remember that there is no vaccine for HIV.
“Hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the impacts of the HIV epidemic. Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. Even with improvements in recent years, HIV treatment access for children and adolescents is unacceptably low, and much more needs to be done to ensure children get the treatment they need and deserve.”
Hawkins said, COVID-19 has interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services globally, putting countless more lives at risk.
The COVID-19 crisis has also further exacerbated inequities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere.
Almost 9 out of 10 children and adolescents of the estimated 2.8 million children aged 0–19 living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.