UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Great progress has been made to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a lentivirus that causes the lethal disease AIDS with no cures at present, with more than 850,000 infants being saved from the virus infection between 2005 and 2012, said a UN report.
The new 2013 Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS, released Friday by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) ahead of Sunday's World AIDS Day, showed that some 260,000 children were newly infected with HIV last year, compared to 540,000 in 2005.
"This report reminds us that an AIDS-free generation is one in which all children are born free of HIV and remain so -- from birth and throughout their lives -- and it means access to treatment for all children living with HIV," said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "It also reminds us that women's health and well-being should be at the center of the AIDS response. I have no doubt that we will achieve these goals."
Thanks to new, simplified life-long antiretroviral treatment ( known as Option B+), there is a greater opportunity to effectively treat women living with HIV and to prevent the transmission of the virus to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, and through breastfeeding. This treatment involves a daily one-pill regimen.
"These days, even if a pregnant woman is living with HIV, it doesn't mean her baby must have the same fate, and it doesn't mean she can't lead a healthy life," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
According to UN figures, some of the most remarkable successes were in high HIV burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa. New infections among infants declined between 2009 and 2012 by 76 percent in Ghana, 58 percent in Namibia, 55 percent in Zimbabwe, 52 percent in Malawi and Botswana, and 50 percent in Zambia and Ethiopia.
However, the report raises the alarm on adolescents, citing the need for increased global and national efforts to address HIV/AIDS among this vulnerable age group.
AIDS-related deaths among adolescents aged 10 to 19 increased by 50 percent between 2005 and 2012, rising from 71,000 to 110,000, in stark contrast to impressive gains in preventing new HIV infections among infants, according to the report.
UNICEF said there were some 2.1 million adolescents living with HIV last year, half of whom were in six countries. Last year, about two-thirds of new HIV infections in adolescents aged 15 to 19 were among girls.
The report showed that by increasing investment in high-impact interventions to about 5.5 billion U.S. dollars by next year, 2 million adolescents, particularly girls, could avoid getting infected by 2020.
"If high-impact interventions are scaled up using an integrated approach, we can halve the number of new infections among adolescents by 2020," said Lake. "It's a matter of reaching the most vulnerable adolescents with effective programs -- urgently."
High-impact interventions include condoms, antiretroviral treatment, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, voluntary medical male circumcision, communications for behavior change, and targeted approaches for at-risk and marginalized populations. They go hand in hand with investments in other sectors such as education, social protection and welfare, and strengthening health systems, the UNICEF report pointed out.
The new report also stressed the need to ensure that more children living with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment, and to apply the knowledge that already exists and pursue new innovations to turn the vision of an AIDS-free generation into reality.
"The world now has the experience and the tools to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Children should be the first to benefit from our successes in defeating HIV, and the last to suffer when we fall short," said Lake.
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