Antiretroviral Therapy Access Increases in Developing Countries, Hundreds of Thousands of Child Deaths Preventable, U.N. Report Says
April 17, 2007
The number of HIV-positive people in developing countries with access to antiretroviral therapy increased 54% to two million people in 2006, but hundreds of thousands of children died of AIDS-related illnesses due to a lack of access to the drugs, according to a report released on Tuesday by UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, Reuters Africa reports. The report found that five million people remain without access to antiretrovirals and that 15% of the 780,000 children in need of antiretroviral drugs had access to treatment by the end of last year. Only 4% of HIV-positive children received the antibiotic co-trimoxazole, recommended by WHO for HIV-positive children and infants who contracted the virus from their mothers during birth. About 380,000 children last year in developing countries died of AIDS-related illnesses, most of which were preventable, according to the report. Mother-to-child transmission rates remain "particularly aggressive" in developing countries, compared with high-income countries, where rates have dropped to below 2%, the report said. According to the report, 11% of HIV-positive pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries have access to antiretrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission, and many infants born HIV-positive go undiagnosed and are subsequently untreated. Sub-Saharan Africa, where about 25 million people with HIV/AIDS and 85% of all HIV-positive pregnant women live, showed the most severe treatment access problems, the report found. Children account for 14% of those in need of antiretroviral treatment in the region but only 6% are on such treatment regimens, according to the report.
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