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UNAIDS: 95% of African Children With AIDS Lack Access to Treatment

FILE - Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS.

Nearly 95 percent of African children living with AIDS do not have access to treatment, the executive director of UNAIDS said during a visit to Cameroon Tuesday.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said there has been nearly a 60 percent decrease in the number of HIV infections among children under the age of 15, but more than 90 percent of the more than 3 million children living with the disease are in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to treatment has been a major obstacle to stopping its spread.

"We need to think about treatment for children. This is really a major challenge for me because it is a forgotten phase," Sidibe said. "We have only 6 percent of children having access to treatment and it is a problem in the continent, and we need to have a new approach which can help us to reach those children where they are."

UNAIDS reported that only 24 percent of children needing antiretroviral treatment in the world received it by 2013, while 190,000 children died that same year.

Sidibe said many others die in silence in areas where talking about AIDS remains a taboo.

'Conspiracy of silence'

"We are making a reach out to make sure that other countries are joining us to transform the conspiracy of silence, to demonstrate before many others that stopping the transmission from mother to child is a win-win [situation]. Having a generation free is certainly one of the best legacies for anyone of us," he said.

Sidibe visited Cameroon as people living with AIDS complained of shortages in antiretroviral treatment.

Minyim Jean, who has been living with AIDS for 15 years, said some medical staff have been changing treatment protocols.

Jean said having access to complete treatment is very difficult as some of the supplies needed for their treatment are not always available. He said some doctors even change treatment for some patients when they run short of supplies.

According to UNAIDS, sub-Saharan Africa has the most serious HIV and AIDS epidemic in the world, with about 25 million people living with the disease — about 70 percent of the global total. The epidemic has had widespread social and economic consequences.