An estimated 2.1 million children under 15 years old were
living with HIV in 2008, and an estimated 280,000 children
died of largely preventable AIDS-related causes. About 38
per cent of children in need of antiretroviral therapy (ART)
received it, up from 10 per cent in 2005. Access to HIV
treatment for children is still low in most countries, although
progress has been observed in every region of the world.
Without treatment, 50 per cent of infected infants die
before the age of 2.
In high-income countries, routine access to prevention of
mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programmes
has cut rates of transmission to about 2 per cent. In lowand
middle-income countries, however, only 45 per cent of
the more than 1.4 million pregnant women living with HIV
in 2008 received antiretrovirals for PMTCT, well short of
the target of 80 per cent by 2010 that was set at the United
Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and
AIDS (2001). The proportion of infants born to HIV-infected
mothers receiving antiretrovirals for PMTCT was even lower,
at 32 per cent, although this was up from 12 per cent in 2005.
There is growing momentum behind a concerted scale-up
of coverage, although progress is hampered by weak health
systems in heavily affected countries – 80 per cent of children
under 15 needing ART live in 20 countries in sub-Saharan
Africa and Asia. Community mobilization and family support
for HIV-positive women are urgent priorities, as is better integration of PMTCT services into stronger systems of
maternal, newborn and child health care.