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Southern Africa Records Sharp Decline in Infant HIV Infections

A new report on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan) has revealed a marked increase in progress in stopping new infections in children across the Global Plan priority countries in Africa.

The report outlines that seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa—Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia—have reduced new HIV infections among children by 50% since 2009. Two others—the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe—are also making substantial progress. It highlights that there were 130 000 fewer new HIV infections among children across the 21 Global Plan priority countries in Africa  – a drop of 38% since 2009.

“The progress in the majority of countries is a strong signal that with focused efforts every child can be born free from HIV,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “But in some countries with high numbers of new infections progress has stalled. We need to find out why and remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up.”

With a 76% decline since 2009, Ghana showed the greatest decline in the rate of new infections among children and South Africa showed a 63% decline (24 000 fewer new HIV infections in 2012 than in 2009). However, the pace of decline in some of the Global Plan priority countries has been slow and in Angola, new HIV infections have even increased. New infections among children in Nigeria – – which has the largest number of children acquiring HIV (nearly 60 000 new HIV infections among children in 2012)  – remained largely unchanged since 2009. Without urgent action in Nigeria the global target for 2015 may not be reached.

More pregnant women living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral medicines to prevent HIV from being transmitted to their children and for their own health in 2012 than in 2009, with coverage levels exceeding 75% in many countries. Increased coverage has reduced HIV transmission rates from mother to child in most countries. Botswana and South Africa have reduced transmission rates to 5% or below.

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