The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that despite successes chalked in the fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a lot more needed to be done particularly in Africa.
UNICEF’s Executive Director, Anthony Lake, revealed that adolescents were generally dying of AIDS at an alarming rate and that the disease remained the leading cause of death in Africa.
“After all the saved and improved lives thanks to prevention, treatment and care; after all the battles won against prejudice and ignorance about this disease; after all the wonderful milestones achieved, AIDS is still the number two cause of death for those aged 10-19 globally – and number one in Africa,” he said.
In sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about 70 per cent of people in the world living with HIV, 3 out of every 4 adolescents newly infected by HIV in 2015 were girls.
Despite remarkable progress, HIV/AIDS continues to stalk children and adolescents https://t.co/bpj8Zr9VJS #AIDS2016 pic.twitter.com/vhflOqNtRX
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) July 19, 2016
The 21st International AIDS Conference currently underway in Durban, South Africa; has thus reaffirmed that despite remarkable global progress in tackling the HIV/AIDS pandemic, much work remains to be done to protect children and adolescents from infection, sickness and death.
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‘‘And while rates of new infections among adolescents have levelled off, UNICEF is concerned that projected increases in their population in the coming years will mean an increase in the overall number of infections,’‘ the children’s group observed.
UNICEF was also particularly concerned about girls who constituted the most vulnerable group of persons. ‘‘Girls are particularly vulnerable, making up about 65 per cent of new adolescent infections worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for about 70 per cent of people in the world living with HIV, 3 out of every 4 adolescents newly infected by HIV in 2015 were girls,’‘ a UNICEFstatement revealed.
In the view of the UNICEF boss, the fight against the disease was far from over and required a focused and concerted effort to better the current situation.
“The undeniable progress we have made in the last three decades does not mean that our struggle is over,” Lake said.
“The battle against AIDS will not be over until we redouble prevention and treatment efforts; until we reach those young lives still being denied the progress that millions before them have enjoyed; and until we end the stigma and fear that prevent so many young people from getting tested,” he concluded.