Peer counseling programs are alleviating this issue by ensuring adolescents and young adults like Michelle improve adherence and cope with their status, while also encouraging those who have been through the process to help others.

HIV infections in children worrying: Unicef

THE United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) believes more efforts are needed to combat HIV infections in children in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Speaking during an online discussion recently, the Unicef regional HIV advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, Lauri Gulaid, said despite the efforts in combating the pandemic, there are about 2.44 million children and adolescents living with the virus in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Of the 2.44 million children only 53 percent are on treatment, leaving more than one million without lifesaving treatment,” Gulaid said. 

“In 2020, it is estimated that there were 260 000 new HIV infections in children and adolescents and 100 000 completely preventable deaths.” 

She said another gap area in terms of treatment, according to research, is that only about 38 percent of children on treatment were achieving viral suppression.  

“When I think about this, I really think about what it takes to get a child on treatment. It takes the family, the caregivers, the community, the health workers, the government and its partners to have those children on treatment. 

“As it is, 62 percent of the children are still at risk of the illness, so this is really a challenge that must be urgently addressed,” said Gulaid.  

In terms of treatment for children, Gulaid encouraged countries to completely transition to the optimal ARV regimens for children.  

“In order to be successful, it requires resources and tools for health workers and caregivers to be able to support proper administration and increase viral load monitoring for both children as well as their mothers. 

“We also need to keep working on data quality. The continued efforts to improve data inform our programmes and help us track our progress,” she said. 


Hazel Marimbiza