U.N. Report Says Increased HIV Testing, Treatment Can Increase Survival Rates of Infants Living With Virus
Early treatment for HIV-positive infants can significantly increase their chances of survival, according to a report released Monday by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and the United Nations Population Fund, the AP/Baltimore Sun reports (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/1). The report also said that many children younger than age one are dying of AIDS-related illnesses before they are even tested for HIV and that pregnant women are not receiving sufficient counseling and other services necessary to teach them about contraception and safer infant feeding (Charbonneau, Reuters, 12/1). Consequently, the report called for increased HIV testing so appropriate treatments can begin as early as possible.
"Without appropriate treatment, half of children with HIV will die from an HIV-related cause by their second birthday," Ann Veneman, executive director of UNICEF, said, adding, "Survival rates are up to 75% higher for HIV-positive newborns who are diagnosed and begin treatment within their first 12 weeks." WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement, "Today, no infants should have to die of AIDS. We know how to prevent these tragic deaths, but now we need to focus on strengthening our health care systems to ensure that all mothers and children receive treatment as early as possible" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/1). Outgoing UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot added that he remains optimistic about the prevention of MTCT, which he called a "human right" (AFP/Google.com, 12/1).
The report found that only 18% of pregnant women in low-income and middle-income countries were given HIV tests and that of those who tested positive, only 12% were further screened to determine how advanced the virus was and the type of treatment required (AP/Baltimore Sun, 12/1). The report recommended that tests to determine the immune functions of HIV-positive women be made more widely available to determine virus progression and reduce the chance of MTCT (Reuters, 12/1). In addition, less than 10% of infants with HIV-positive mothers were tested for the virus, according to the report. Nevertheless, the report forecasted progress in some of the most affected countries where early screening is increasing, including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia (AFP/Google.com, 12/1).
The report is available online (.pdf).