From: Reuters
Published April 3, 2008 10:46 AM

U.N. sees progress inadequate on children and AIDS

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Efforts to reduce the number of children dying of HIV/AIDS have made some progress but still fall well short of targets, the U.N. children's agency UNICEF reported on Thursday.

Last year, an estimated 2.1 million children worldwide were infected with HIV and 290,000 died. As of 2005, more than 15 million children under 18 had lost one or both parents to AIDS, according to U.N. figures.

Three years ago, UNICEF set goals for 2010 of stemming mother-to-children transmission of HIV, supplying drugs to infected children, preventing infection of adolescents and supporting children already living with HIV or AIDS.

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In its new report, UNICEF pointed to some improvements. In 2006, the number of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries getting drugs to reduce the risk of passing the virus to their children rose to 350,000, up 60 percent from 2005.

In 2006, more than 125,000 HIV-positive children were getting AIDS treatment, up 70 percent from the year before.

"Yet, with millions of children and women not being reached, these results are in no way satisfactory," the report said. Treatment figures were still too low, risk reduction programs were insufficient and services provided by governments and others only reached a low percentage of those in need.

In the area of mother-to-child transmission, the proportion of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries receiving drugs had risen from 10 percent in 2004 to 23 percent in 2006, the report said.

Some 1.5 million HIV-infected women in those countries gave birth in 2006.

The report noted "steady progress" in eastern and southern Africa, where the majority of newly infected children live.

Yet, the world was "far short" of UNICEF's target of 80 percent coverage by 2010, it said.

"Poor geographical service reach, aggravated by weak health systems, and the fear, stigma and denial that discourage many women from being tested for HIV are significant barriers to wider coverage," it said.

"Community mobilization and family support, especially from men, for women who are HIV-positive remain urgent priorities."

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

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