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Sub-Saharan countries half child HIV infections, says UN

June 26, 2013

Significant progress is being made by several sub-Saharan countries in the fight against HIV, according to the United Nations (UN). The number of infants being born with HIV has halved since 2009 in seven countries in this area. 

Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia were all cited by the UN for dramatically reducing the number of children infected at birth by at least 50 per cent. It also highlighted the substantial progress made in Tanzania and Zimbabwe. 

Over the 21 countries, where it has been deemed necessary to place the protection of children with HIV a top priority as part of the UNAIDS' global plan, 130,000 fewer children have tested positive which is a reduction of 38 per cent since 2009.

This has been accomplished by administering antiretroviral drugs to women in labour and the child when it is born. It means that most HIV transmissions can be avoided but the progress is slow.

Ghana has made the most dramatic decrease, managing to reduce birth infections of HIV by 79 per cent in three years. South Africa has also made staggering steps, with a much bigger population, as it has managed to reduce the number of children infected by 63 per cent. 

However, it isn't good news across the board. Angola has seen an increase in babies becoming infected with HIV and little has changed in Nigeria, with nearly 60,000 contracting the disease last year.

Executive director Michel Sidibé of UNAIDS said: "The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts every child can be born free from HIV but progress has stalled in some countries with high numbers of new HIV infections." He added that the reasons for this needs to be established."

Concerns have risen that there isn't enough access to treatment for children with HIV in order to keep them alive. UNAIDS and Pepfar, the US president's emergency AIDs plan, described the availability of drugs as "unacceptably low" with only three-in-ten children having access to it in these high-risk countries.

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