‘The Aids pandemic did not end with the Covid-19 pandemic’

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  • The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the risk of children being infected with HIV.
  • One hundred twenty thousand children died of Aids-related causes globally in 2020.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in all countries missing the UNAIDS 2020  targets.

A new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) shows that a child was infected with HIV every two minutes in 2020.

The organisation released the HIV and AIDS: Global Snapshot as the globe commemorated World Aids Day. It looked at how the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened inequalities, thereby exacerbating the HIV epidemic. This has put vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers at increased risk of missing life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services.

The report found that at least 310 000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020. The findings also show that another 120 000 children died from Aids-related causes during the same year.

Focusing only on Covid is dangerous

The UNICEF report says that focusing on Covid-19 and neglecting HIV is a dangerous and short-sighted strategy for safeguarding and improving the health and wellbeing of those most vulnerable to HIV.

"Averting new HIV infections and boosting treatment access among children and adolescents can and should be a priority at the same time that Covid-19 is being tackled, to ensure that all HIV prevention and treatment interventions can be delivered safely, consistently and without fear of interruption," the report states.

Missed targets 

The report states that the world missed every UNAIDS goal. These goals are:

  • By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.
  • Ninety percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy.
  • Ninety percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. 

Instead, UNICEF found that two out of five children living with HIV worldwide do not know their status, and only just over half of all children with HIV are receiving antiretroviral treatment. 

New goals

UNICEF recommends four approaches that should form part of the 2022 to 2026 Strategic Plan:

  • Innovate service delivery, new drugs, smart diagnostics, and digital technologies.
  • Have targeted, evidence-based programming in place.
  • Integrate HIV into primary health care in ways that strengthen health systems.
  • Prioritise mothers, children and adolescents living with and affected by HIV.

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