UNAIDS Report Cites Overall Reduction in Global HIV Infections, But the Need for Redoubled Prevention and Treatment Efforts
November 25, 2009
Contact: Robert Yule
Statement of Nicholas Hellmann, M.D., Interim President and CEO,
Executive Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs,
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
– Yesterday’s report from UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) on the state of the HIV/AIDS pandemic shows continued progress in reducing new infections around the world. At the same time, the 2009 AIDS Epidemic Update also underscores remaining challenges, such as the need for more effective prevention and treatment efforts, and greater integration with other health services, particularly those dealing with maternal and child health.
According to the report, overall new HIV infections have been reduced by 17 percent since 2001. During that same period, new infections in sub-Saharan Africa – the epicenter of the pandemic – have also dropped by approximately 15 percent. Yet overall, there were 2.7 million new infections worldwide in 2008, emphasizing the need for scaled-up prevention efforts.
In children, the report estimates 430,000 new HIV infections in 2008, a reduction of approximately 18 percent from 2001. But this still represents 16 percent of total new infections, underscoring the urgent need for services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and treatment for pediatric infections.
Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region hardest hit by pediatric HIV and AIDS. The estimated 390,000 infections in children in the region in 2008 represent 91 percent of overall pediatric infections, and the vast majority of those infections occurred through mother-to-child transmission. With proven interventions that have the potential to virtually eliminate HIV infection in infants worldwide, that number of new infections in children is unacceptably high.
The report highlights significant reductions in HIV in children in countries such as Botswana and Lesotho, where PMTCT coverage has dramatically increased. In 2008, UN agencies reported that 45 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries received these services – a significant increase from just 10 percent in 2004.
But a majority of women in need are not receiving these interventions to protect their infants, highlighting the need to improve access to PMTCT. The report signals a clear need for increased service access and awareness in communities about the availability of HIV testing and prevention services in antenatal settings, both to protect newborns from the virus and ensure the health of mothers and whole families.
For those infants who are infected with HIV, early diagnosis and treatment is key. Without it, many will die a few months after birth, and half will not survive to see their second birthday. Despite WHO guidelines that all HIV-infected infants are in need of antiretroviral treatment (ART), only a small fraction are receiving it, contributing to the estimated 280,000 AIDS-related deaths in children in 2008.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation works around the globe – and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa – to prevent new infections in infants, and to treat mothers, children, and families living with HIV. Marking its twentieth year, the Foundation has committed to work with the global community to decrease pediatric HIV infections by half over the next five years, preventing nearly a million infections in children. Collaborating with national governments and other stakeholders, the Foundation will work toward achieving the universal access PMTCT target, and has pledged to reach 15 million pregnant women with PMTCT services between 2009 and 2013.
But it is imperative that while we continue to scale up HIV prevention and treatment services, we also maintain their quality, and increase integration with broader maternal and child health services. By marshaling our resources and continuing to collaborate with governments and a broad array of partners and stakeholders, we can achieve our ultimate goal of a generation free of HIV.
About the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is a worldwide leader in the fight against pediatric AIDS. Its innovative research programs, collaborative training initiatives, advocacy efforts, and rapidly expanding international prevention and treatment programs are bringing dramatic changes to the lives of children worldwide. For more information, visit www.pedaids.org/jointhemoment.