Thousands of HIV-positive Babies Born Daily

The World Health Organization issued a report saying about 2,000 children of HIV-positive mothers in the developing world are born with the disease on a daily basis because the mothers were not given antiretrovirals during their pregnancy. The lack of progress came in the face of a threefold increase in access to the drugs, the report said. (MSNBC/Reuters)

GENEVA – Nearly 2,000 babies are born every day with HIV because their virus-infected mothers do not get the treatment needed to stop transmission, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

The WHO said fewer than 10 percent of HIV-positive women in developing countries got antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy and childbirth between 2003 and 2005 despite a tripling of overall access to the drugs in that period.

“Each year, over 570,000 children under the age of 15 die of AIDS, most having acquired HIV from their mothers,” the U.N. health agency said in a report showing it fell short of a “3 by 5” goal of getting 3 million people on antiretrovirals by 2005.

By the end of last year, only 1.3 million people with the immune-suppressing virus in poor countries had access to the drugs — less than half the number targeted by the WHO in 2003.

The report, released with the Joint U.N. Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said 660,000 children under the age of 15 were in immediate need of antiretroviral therapy in 2005.

Most of those live in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by HIV and AIDS, where only 17 percent of sufferers had access to the life-saving drugs last year.

“Misinformation about the disease and stigma against living with HIV still hamper prevention, care and treatment efforts everywhere,” UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said.

Ineffective partnerships among aid providers, inadequate supplies of drugs and weak health systems were also cited in the report as factors behind the missed target.

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