October 19, 2006
In West and Central Africa, more than 4.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, Esther Guluma, UNICEF director for the region, said at the end of a conference in Dakar on HIV and children. At the end of last year, an estimated 1.3 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women were receiving antiretroviral therapy to prevent transmitting the virus to their babies. Over the same timeframe, about 220,000 children were infected with HIV and 170,000 died of AIDS. Without access to prevention or treatment services, "children are the hidden face of the pandemic, even in countries where the prevalence is low," said Meskerem Grunitzky-Bekele, UNAIDS regional director. "The financial resources exist but the children have not been a priority until now," said Sosthene Bucyana, a US Agency for International Development West Africa representative.