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Call to halt child Aids deaths

African governments have been urged to pledge real investment into wiping out HIV infection among the continent’s children.

Ninety per cent of worldwide Aids cases in children are in Africa, according to two new reports by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef.

Every day about 1000 children in Africa are born with HIV. And only about a third of these children will be able to get life-saving anti-retroviral therapies, the studies found.

Aids treatment services are mostly concentrated in towns and cities, but most of the children with Aids and HIV live in country areas.

In order to succeed we need a programme that goes and reaches the children where they live in their communities to be able to access the medical services that they need. This is not being done successfully in many parts of Africa at the moment", said Professor Peter Mugenyi, from the Campaign to End Paediatric HIV/Aids (CEPA).

More pregnant HIV-positive women are now getting treatment to prevent them passing the virus onto their babies and more  African children are  getting HIV treatment, said the reports, Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals and Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity. But in some African countries, a very high number of children are dying from Aids. In southern Africa, five countries have 30 per cent or more children dying from Aids. And in South Africa 45 per cent of children under five die from Aids. This compares with the global figure of three per cent.

Aids deaths among African children are mostly in under-developed poorer areas, the reports say, calling for services to reduce infection and to treat Aids in children, to be spread more evenly.

"Unless the services reach the people who are the targets of these services, the programmes cannot succeed. If you take a country like Uganda, you find that about 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, and this is where the services need to go. This is where the strengthening of health systems needs to be" Professor Mugenyi said.

"Charity begins at home. We require our governments in Africa to take the initiatives to make sure that they increase their budgets to be able to cater with a programme that we know very well that Africa can do − successfully eliminate paediatric Aids on the continent", he said.

Only six African governments have made good their 2001 pledge to raise health spending to 15 per cent of their national budgets.

Hayley attribution