Every 50 seconds a child dies of an AIDS related illness and another becomes infected with HIV.
3.4 million children under 15 are living with HIV
650 children become infected with HIV every day
520 children die of AIDS related diseases every day
Children can become infected in their earliest years through pregnancy, breastfeeding, or childbirth. They can also get HIV by being married off at young ages or even injecting drugs.
Over 25 million children under 18 have been orphaned by AIDS.
Eight out of every 10 children in the world whose parents have died of AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa.
At 2, Mpho lost her parents. At 3, she was diagnosed with HIV. By 4, she could have been homeless. Mpho lives in Lesotho, Southern Africa, where 1 in 4 adults has HIV. A whole generation of parents has died of HIV/AIDS, leaving more than 100,000 orphans.
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What is a Child?
A young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.
What is Poverty?
The World Bank Organization describes poverty as this:
“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.
Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action -- for the poor and the wealthy alike -- a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”
23% of pregnant women living with HIV did not have access to adequate healthcare to prevent transmission to their infants.
Around 150,000 children became infected with HIV, equating to 400 children a day.
In the 21 highest-burden countries, only 54% of children exposed to HIV were tested within the recommended two months.
An estimated 1.8 million children were living with HIV, but just 49% had access to antiretrovirals.
Why are so many children at risk of HIV worldwide?
The majority of children with HIV are infected via mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is now the primary cause of MTCT. In 2013, only 49% of women continued to take antiretrovirals while breastfeeding, compared to 62% of women who took antiretrovirals during pregnancy and delivery. MTCT of HIV can be prevented if expectant mothers have a combination of both adequate resources to healthcare and education about the importance of continuing treatment post-birth. Although it is lesson common in present day, HIV infection in children can occur in medical settings. For instance, in 2012, it was reported that over the past decade in Kyrgyzstan, 270 children were infected with HIV in hospitals as a result of doctors not following universal precautions during medical procedures.
The Loss of Parents
One of the most devastating impacts of HIV is the loss of
whole generations of people in communities that are hit
hardest by the epidemic. Therefore, children often feel the
greatest impact due to the loss of their parents or other guardians. The United Nations defines an “orphan” as a child who has “lost one or both parents.” As of 2015, an estimated 13.4 million children and adolescents (0-17 years) worldwide had lost one or both parents to HIV. More than 80% of these children lived in sub-Saharan Africa. As many as 74% of children in Zimbabwe are orphaned due to HIV.
HIV Testing for Children
Access to HIV testing in children over 18 months of age remains poor in many countries. Screening children for HIV at inpatient sites and nutrition clinics provides the best opportunities for diagnosing HIV infections in children that might otherwise go undetected. Many HIV-positive children in low and middle-income countries remain undiagnosed. For example, one estimate from Kenya suggests that only 40% of children with HIV are diagnosed.
Within the United States
In 2015, youth aged 13 to 24 accounted for 22% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Most of those new diagnoses among youth (81%) occurred among gay and bisexual males. Young African American and Hispanic gay and bisexual males are especially affected. However, there is progress being made; it is estimated annual HIV infections fell 18% among young gay and bisexual males from 2008 to 2014. Among youth who were diagnosed with HIV in 2015, 68% were linked to care within 1 month- the lowest rate of any age group.
Inadequate sex education plays a large role in the rates of HIV amongst adolescents. In most states, fewer than half of high schools teach all 16 topics recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many curricula do not include prevention information for young gay and bisexual men. In addition, often times sex education does not start early enough; in no state do more than half of middle schools meet the goals set by CDC. Moreover, sex education has been declining over time. The percentage of schools in which students are required to receive instruction on HIV prevention decreased from 64% in 2000 to 41% in 2014.
There are many risk behaviors that adolescents engage in, making them more likely of acquiring HIV. There are extremely low rates of testing within the country. As of 2015, only 10% of high school students had been tested for HIV. Substance use also heightens the chances of HIV. Nationwide, 21% of all students who are currently sexually active used drugs or drank alcohol before their most recent act of sexual intercourse. There are also low rates of condom use. In 2015, nearly half of all sexually active high school students surveyed did not use a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse.
All graphics by Jaclyn Saik