Children should be placed at the center of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, Agnes Binagwaho, executive secretary of Rwanda's National AIDS Control Commission, said recently, the New Times/AllAfrica.com reports. According to the Times/AllAfrica.com, neglecting the impact of HIV/AIDS on children "undermines hard-won gains" in child survival in some countries most affected by the disease.
UNAIDS estimates indicate that about 2.3 million children under age 15 were HIV-positive in 2007 and that nearly 90% of children with HIV, who mainly contracted the virus through mother-to-child transmission, live in sub-Saharan Africa. "If we don't focus on children, we are going to lose the battle against HIV/AIDS because these children will be the driving force of the epidemic in the next generation," Binagwaho said, adding, "Let's put children at the center of our intervention programs; otherwise, they won't forgive us."
Binagwaho said that the Rwandan government, with assistance from the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, has begun to address the issue through a decentralized pediatric HIV care and treatment program that was established in 2004. The program provides treatment to 500 HIV-positive children. However, Binagwaho said that in addition to HIV/AIDS-related stigma, inadequate pediatric HIV testing, treatment and counseling facilities are still impeding efforts to identify and provide treatment for HIV-positive children in Rwanda. She said efforts are ongoing to integrate HIV/AIDS programs in the country's Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (Namata, New Times/AllAfrica.com, 6/11).
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