1 December is World Aids Day. Image via Flickr: Sham Hardy.

#WorldAidsDay: UNICEF reveal a global 30% increase in adolescent HIV patients

Just where is the battle against AIDS being lost?


1 December is World Aids Day. Image via Flickr: Sham Hardy.

A UNICEF report chronicling the state of HIV and AIDS infections across the world has turned up some disconcerting figures, on #WorldAidsDay.

According to the international charity, 2.1 million adolescents – that’s youths aged between 10 – 19 – have contracted the disease. A 30% increase from 2005. In 2016 alone, 55,000 adolescents aged 10-19 died from Aids-related causes, with 90% of them being in sub-Saharan Africa.

UNICEF statistics released on #WorldAidsDay

The UNAIDS development programme will not be able to reach their target for 2020. The “Super Fast Track Framework” had aimed to free all adolescents of AIDS in the next few years. That, however, is looking like a bridge too far.

At the current rate, there will be a further 3.5 million cases of adolescents suffering from HIV by 2030. That’s around 300,000 new infections a year, according to the 2017 UNICEF Statistical Update on Children and Aids.

How many children suffer from HIV / AIDS?

  • In 2016, some 120,000 children under the age of 14 died of Aids-related causes
  • Less than half of the 2.1-million children (aged 0-14) living with HIV around the world in 2016 received anti retro-viral therapy.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, UNICEF added, annual Aids-related deaths declined for all age groups except adolescents (aged 10-19), where the number of Aids-related deaths more than doubled, from 24,000 to 55,000 cases
  • Adolescent girls account for 67% of all new HIV infections in the 15-19 age group worldwide

HIV treatments

Dr Amir Shroufi is the Medical Co-Ordinator for South Africa. He accepted there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to curb the death toll, but suggested there were many practical ways to help support AIDS victims:

“Despite significantly improved access to ARVs, major challenges remain to reduce HIV/Aids mortality in South Africa from an unacceptably high 180,000 deaths a year.”

“HIV services should be geared towards better patient retention. and, towards supporting the return of those who stop accessing services. Longer prescription times and community pick-up points, as well as organised support groups, would be helpful.”

For Dr Shroufi, the retention of patients is key. Too many are being lost after initially starting treatment, then never returning. If we achieve anything on#WorldAidsDay, not one single victim can be left behind.

Also read: Why scientific AIDS explanations struggle in townships