By Kate Kelland

PCI has been dedicated to the eradication of HIV/AIDS in Africa and worldwide for years. We are excited by this reduction in HIV infections and hope that this success can continue and that we can continue to reduce infections and deaths, with the eventual goal of HIV/AIDS eradication in Africa.

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Seven countries in sub-Saharan  Africa, the world’s worst-hit region in the global AIDS  epidemic, have cut the number of new HIV infections in children  by 50 percent since 2009, the United Nations AIDS programme said  on Tuesday.

The dramatic reductions – in Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana,  Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia – mean tens of  thousands more babies are now being born free of HIV, UNAIDS  said in a report on its Global Plan to tackle the disease in  around 20 of the worst affected countries.

Overall, across 21 priority countries in Africa, there were  130,000 fewer new HIV infections among children in 2012 – a drop  of 38 percent since 2009 – mostly due to increased drug  treatment of pregnant women with the virus.

“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, UNAIDS’ executive director.

“But progress has stalled in some countries with high  numbers of new HIV infections. We need to find out why and  remove the bottlenecks which are preventing scale-up.”

Among places causing concern, UNAIDS said, are Angola and  Nigeria, where new infections in children have increased and  remained unchanged respectively since 2009.

Nigeria has the largest number of children acquiring HIV in  the region, with nearly 60,000 new infections in 2012.

And for those children who do become infected, access to  AIDS drugs that can keep their disease in check is “unacceptably  low”, UNAIDS said, with only 3 in 10 children getting the AIDS  medicines they need in most priority countries.

The report said much of the reduction in new HIV cases in  children was thanks to more use of AIDS drug treatment for  HIV-positive pregnant women. Coverage rates were above 75  percent in many of the priority countries, it said.

AIDS medicines known as antiretroviral therapy not only  improve the health of mothers with the human immunodeficiency  virus (HIV) that causes AIDS, but can also prevent HIV from  being transmitted to their children.

Botswana and South Africa have reduced mother to child HIV  transmission rates to 5 percent or less, according to UNAIDS.

Eric Goosby, global AIDS coordinator for the United States  government, called on the international community to “continue  working together to see the day when no children are born with  HIV, which is within our reach”.

This story is republished from Huffington Post Healthy Living on August 2, 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/p46hkyv).

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