More than 1.5 million Asian children have been orphaned by AIDS, UN says

6 July 2005

More than 1.5 million children in Asia and the Pacific have been orphaned by AIDS and many more are living with ill and dying parents, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has told an international congress on AIDS that wound up its sessions in Kobe, Japan, this week.

More than 1.5 million children in Asia and the Pacific have been orphaned by AIDS and many more are living with ill and dying parents, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has told an international congress on AIDS that wound up its sessions in Kobe, Japan, this week.

In a satellite transmission to the Congress, UNICEF said another 121,000 children were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific at the end of last year, with an estimated 47,000 children newly infected last year alone. Only a small fraction of the 35,000 children who need anti-retrovirals (ARVs) were receiving them and only a few children at risk were receiving Cotrimoxazole antibiotic to stave off HIV-related infections, it added.

“This regional data will further help us to target our actions and to get to grips with the magnitude of the problem regarding children in Asia and the Pacific. Accurate data at local, national and regional levels is crucial to how we manage our collective response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” a UNICEF regional director, Anupama Rao Singh, told the Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific over the weekend.

While the number of children orphaned by AIDS is alarming, many more children in Asia and the Pacific are at risk of losing their caregivers, UNICEF said to the 1 to 5 July conference. Failure to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS on children would mean that more children would face barriers in accessing education, health care and other basic services, it said.

Most governments in the region have not yet developed national policies and strategies to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on children, including the protection and care of those orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS, UNICEF said.

A representative of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), J.V.R. Prasada Rao, said a lack of coordination placed the response to the pandemic at risk and lack of prevention policies was common throughout the region.

According to the Monitoring AIDS Pandemic (MAP) Network, the three unsafe behaviours driving the pandemic in the region were commercial sex, injecting drug use and sex between men. It added that HIV could rapidly spread to the wider population from these groups unless governments devised policies to slow the rate of infection.

Sixty countries, including China., India, Thailand and Cambodia, took part in the Congress, sending policy-making officials and health care specialists, as well as people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

 

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