HIV Prevalence Among Asian Children ‘Likely To Soar’ Without Effective Prevention Programs
HIV prevalence among Asian children is "likely to soar" unless governments implement effective prevention programs, a UNICEF official said on Tuesday at a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, AFP/News24.com reports. The warning came at the start of a three-day UNICEF meeting aimed at developing a plan to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission rates in the region (AFP/News24.com, 5/11). Participants at the U.N. Regional Taskforce Meeting on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Southeast Asia and the Pacific will consider "cutting-edge" research, best practices from the region and strategies aimed at cutting by half the number of HIV-positive infants -- a goal set at the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001 (UNICEF release, 5/10). There was a 40% increase in the number of HIV-positive children ages 14 and younger between 1999 and 2001, according to Robert Bennoun, UNICEF regional adviser on HIV/AIDS, AFP/News24.com reports. In addition, the number of children in the region who lost one or both parents to AIDS-related death rose from 150,000 in 1999 to about 750,000 in 2003, Bennoun said. "Vertical transmission usually occurs at the middle or latter stages of an epidemic, and so we have alarming signals at the early stages of Asia's epidemic," Bennoun said. However, some Asian countries -- such as Thailand -- have been successful at preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission. Representatives at the meeting also plan to discuss improvements in prevention, testing and treatment programs, as well as ways to end stigmatization of HIV-positive children, who often are denied education or treatment. Representatives of governments, nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam are attending the meeting (AFP/News24.com, 5/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.