There has been a reduction in the number of new HIV infections among children below 15 years since 2002. However, there are still more than 700 children infected every year and millions affected by the disease due to the impact it has on the family. With more than 2.6 million children living with HIV to date, a lot of research has been dedicated to reduce transmission of the disease from pregnant mothers to their unborn child.
Most infections are mother to child transmissions
Most children living with HIV got it from their mothers while they were pregnant, breastfeeding or during childbirth. When children are born with HIV, 1/3 of them do not reach their first birthday if ARV treatment is not administered immediately after birth. Unfortunately, all new mother-to-child infections could be avoided but lack of resources, trained staff and funding especially in the developing nations is a challenge.
Cultural norms expose children to AIDS
In up to 52 countries around the world, girls below 15 are married off by their parents. This makes them sexually active at a young age and increases the risk of sexual transmission of this infection. Research shows that girls are at a higher risk of HIV infection when they practice sex from a young age. This is because they are likely to have unprotected sex or be coerced by older partners.
Over 20 million children are orphaned by HIV
One of the most heartbreaking impacts of the AIDS epidemic is the impact it has on children. There are communities that have lost generations because of the disease. By 2015, the United Nations reported that 15.1 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by HIV. Countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa are the most affected. This explains why there have been many programs to support vulnerable children in Africa and their caregivers.
Access of ARVs can save children’s lives
The World Health Organization reported in 2013 that children below the age of 5 who are infected with HIV should receive antiretroviral treatment in order to reduce their likelihood of death. Getting ARV treatment immediately can reduce the likelihood of death by 75% if treatment is administered within the first 12 weeks after birth. The unfortunate thing is that ARV treatment is inaccessible in developing countries and 76% of children are not able to receive it. In some cases, the caregivers are forced to give children their adult drugs which risk them taking too much or too little of the medicine.