By Chioma Umeha
More than four decades into the HIV epidemic, four in five children living with HIV in West and Central Africa are still not receiving life-saving antiretroviral therapy and Aids-related deaths among adolescents aged between 15 and 19 are on the rise.
While acknowledging progress in several areas, the report “Step Up the Pace, Towards an Aids-free generation in West and Central Africa”, jointly published by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNAids shows the region is lagging behind on nearly every measure of HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes for children and adolescents.
In 2016, an estimated 60 000 children were newly infected with HIV in West and Central Africa. “It is tragic that so many children and adolescents today are not receiving the treatment they need just because they have not been tested,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Director.
“We need to make better use of innovations to increase early diagnosis and improve access to HIV treatment and care for children. For example, the point-of-care technology diagnostic brings testing closer to where children attend health services and self-testing can be a good option for adolescents who may be more comfortable with it.”
The region’s coverage of life-saving anti-retroviral therapy among children living with HIV is the lowest in the world because many countries have limited capacity to perform the tests needed for early infant diagnosis.