The World Health Organizations (WHO) has released new guidelines for HIV prevention and treatment among children at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Globally, 355 000 children were receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment at the end of 2009, up from 276 000 at the end of 2008.
“It is encouraging that more children are getting access to HIV treatment, but we have opportunities to do more to promote healthy lives for infants and children,” sad Dr Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director-General for HIV, TB, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases at WHO.
A number of countries, among them Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia, have virtually eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV. At the press conference Dr Paul De Lay, UNAIDS Deputy Director – Programmes Branch urged other countries to follow their example.
400,000 infections among babies can be averted, according to Dr De Lay. “Ensuring that babies are born free of HIV is a moral responsibility.”
“Virtual elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV by 2015 is possible,” said Dr De Lay, “relatively small investments can go a long way in saving mothers and babies.”
While seeking to optimize the timing and approach to HIV treatment in infants and children who have already been infected, WHO has made new recommendations with the objective of reducing and eventually eliminating new HIV infections in children.