The Forgotten Victims: Children infected with HIV/AIDS

Every minute of every day a child under the age of 15 is infected with HIV. 1,400 children die of AIDS each day and more than a half million young lives are claimed by this disease each year. We often hear of treatment for HIV/AIDS and the action taken to help fight this deadly disease, but how much of it is being given to the infected children?

According to the UNAIDS 2006 Report there are 2.3 million children (under the age of 15) living with HIV/AIDS around the world. Of those children, 2.1 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Pediatric HIV/AIDS is a growing concern for AFJN. Children infected with HIV/AIDS are often denied treatment, based on the perception that their deaths are inevitable.

Nine times out of ten, children become infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission, whether through pregnancy and delivery or through breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there are little to no resources available for reproductive health for women, especially pregnant women. In fact, reproductive health conditions, including HIV/AIDS, are the leading cause of death and illness in women worldwide (15-44 years of age). Actually, Africa and Asia together account for 95% of the world’s maternal deaths. But, increased reproductive health can lower the maternal death rate and mother-to-child HIV transmission. In fact, Cesarean Sections can reduce the transmission of the HIV virus from mother-to-child by 50%. Unfortunately, many regions in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the equipment, personnel, or sanitation to perform Cesarean Sections. Furthermore, if an HIV infected mother chooses to breastfeed her child that child’s risk of contracting the virus increases by 30- 45%.

Another growing concern for AFJN and the global community is the lack of pediatric doses of antiretroviral drugs. Of the 2.1 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV/AIDS in Africa some 700,000+ are in need of antiretroviral treatment, yet less than 10% of them will receive it. Not to mention that many of these drugs require refrigeration which is not accessible to a large majority of Africans and the cost of treatment for a child is four times more expensive than the cost of treating an adult.

Children are truly a gift from God and AFJN will continue to bring light to these forgotten victims of HIV/AIDS. AFJN insists that reproductive health services be made available, especially to HIV infected women who are of child bearing age; and the proper pediatric doses of antiretroviral drugs be made available to all in need.

By Barbie Fischer

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