The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says its strategy to prevent and support children affected by AIDS is showing signs of success despite tepid response for the international community. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the story.
UNICEF launched its campaign Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS in October 2005 to call attention to the youngest victims of the disease. UNICEF says children have been missing from the HIV/ AIDS agenda despite the fact that children are the best long-term hope for defeating the epidemic.
According to the United Nations, 2.3 million children are living with the HIV virus worldwide. Another 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Peter McDermott, UNICEF's chief AIDS adviser, says the group's decision to focus on AIDS-affected children has not elicited the hoped for international response. "We sought to try to mobilize resources, call for better drugs and to really have a more centrally organized and more responsive action for children globally. First of all, one year on, the global response unfortunately remains tragically insufficient," he said.
But McDermott says there are early signs that UNICEF's four-pronged strategy is working. Increasing numbers of children living with AIDS are receiving treatment and more women have access to anti-retroviral drugs to prevent mother-to child transmission. "Seven countries todate are on target with 40 percent of the women accessing. More notably perhaps is that four countries in sub-Saharan Africa have already got 20 percent of their women accessing antiretrovirals through prevention. Another 100 countries now have developed national scale up plans and I think we are beginning to see some significant increase on the ground not just in terms of access to the drugs but also in infections averted," he said.
"On the pediatric side, more children, we estimate a minimum of 75,000 in 2005, are now on treatment. A small number compared to the number of children in need, but a significant improvement 12 months on."
McDermott says the improvements are due, in part, to lower prices, better drugs and better diagnostic techniques.
According to the UNICEF report, evidence shows that greater dissemination of information about the disease and prevention has led to a decrease in infection among young people in a number of countries.
McDermott says a number of governments are now using innovative methods to reach to more children and children are increasingly featured in national development plans.