PRESS RELEASE: Teenage deaths due to AIDS have tripled over the last 15 years

PRESS RELEASE: Teenage deaths due to AIDS have tripled over the last 15 years

Adolescent deaths from AIDS tripled since 2000 – UNICEF

New data also says most babies are untested

JOHANNESBURG/NEW YORK, 27 November 2015 – The number of adolescent deaths from AIDS has tripled over the last 15 years, according to new data released today by UNICEF.

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 vastly 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.

“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 Critical Thinking Forum in Johannesburg today. “At the same time, those who are HIV-negative must have access to the knowledge and means to help them to stay that way.”

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 are on treatment.

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.

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.

By 2014, 3 in 5 pregnant women living with HIV received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. This has translated into a 60 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths among children under 4 years of age since 2000. These efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission will help to change the course of the epidemic for the next generation of adolescents.

The data reveals that currently among adolescents (15-19):

-26 new infections occur every hour; and
-About half of those living with HIV are in just six countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Mozambique and Tanzania.

“The gains we have made on preventing mother to child transmission are laudable, and to be celebrated,” McClure added, “but immediate investments are needed to get life-saving treatment to children and adolescents who are infected.”

Note concerning the Democratic Republic of Congo

The HIV / AIDS situation remains a concern in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the last Demographic and Health Survey (DHS 2013-2014), HIV prevalence was of 1.2% in the general population. Only 10% of young men and 15% of young women (15-24 years) know their HIV status. This part of the population is a group particularly at risk. Only three out of 10 teenagers are thoroughly informed on HIV/AIDS in the DRC.

HIV testing is the gateway to prevention, being informed on their HIV status encourages individuals to behave responsibly. It is therefore important to encourage the promotion of voluntary counseling and HIV testing in teenager environments.

To respond to this reality the Government of the DRC is aligned with the Global Vision, the fast track plan which has three objectives: by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV are informed on their HIV status, 90% of those infected receive treatment and 90% of people are under viral load suppressing treatments to strengthen their immune system. It is in this context the Government of the DRC, with the support of UNICEF, launched the process of developing a strategic plan for adolescent health including HIV / AIDS.

Note to Editors:
UNICEF’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS report can be downloaded here: www.childrenandaids.org

Multimedia assets can be downloaded here: http://uni.cf/1TeMEdI

For further information please contact:
Patsy Nakell, UNICEF Johannesburg, +27 76 872 2147 / +27 79 495 5938, [email protected]
Suzanne Beukes, UNICEF Johannesburg, +27 79 495 5935, [email protected]
Yves Willemot, UNICEF RDC, +243 81 88 46 746, [email protected]

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