S AFRICA: Adolescent Deaths from HIV/AIDS Tripled since 2000, Report Shows

JOHANNESBURG DECEMBER 1, 2015 (CISA) – The number of adolescent deaths from AIDS has tripled over the last 15 years, even as the world marks World Aids day, according to new data released November 27, by UNICEF.

According to the report, AIDS is the number one cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally.

Among HIV-affected populations, adolescents are the only group for which the mortality figures are not decreasing. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence, girls are greatly more affected, accounting for 7 in 10 new infections among 15-19 year olds.

However, among adolescents in that age group in the region, just over 1 in 10 are tested for HIV, UNICEF said in a press release.

“It is critical that young people who are HIV-positive have access to treatment, care and support,” said Craig McClure, head of UNICEF’s global HIV/AIDS programmes.

“At the same time, those who are HIV-negative must have access to the knowledge and means to help them to stay that way,” he added. The new data states that most adolescents who die of AIDS-related illnesses acquired HIV when they were infants, 10 to 15 years ago, when fewer pregnant women and mothers living with HIV received antiretroviral medicines to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child.

These children have survived into their teenage years, sometimes without knowing their HIV status.  According to the data in UNICEF’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, less than half of children under 2 months old are tested for HIV.

Only 1 in 3 of the 2.6 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV is on treatment.

However, since 2000, nearly 1.3 million new infections among children have been averted, largely due to advances in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) World Aids Day 2015 theme: Getting to zero; end Aids by 2030 calls for expanding antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV.

The day is also a way to demonstrate international solidarity for people living with HIV and to commemorate the spirit of those who have died battling the deadly disease.