80 Adolescents to Die Each Day from AIDS by 2030, UNICEF Projects

Volunteers of a non-governmental organization along with street children light lamps on a giant red ribbon, the symbol of solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS, during an awareness rally on World AIDS Day in Kolkata, India, on Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

About 80 adolescents will die from AIDS each day by the year 2030 if efforts to prevent transmission aren’t sharply accelerated, the United Nations Children’s Fund said ahead of World AIDS Day.

About a third of new HIV infections happen in people 15 to 25 years old, according to the World Health Organization. Worldwide, three million people 19 years old or younger are infected with HIV.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people have contracted HIV and half of those have died. About 37 million people around the world live with HIV today, and 22 million of those are receiving treatment.

In a new report on children and AIDS, UNICEF said that more than half of the children known to be dying of AIDS won’t reach 5 years old.

“The report makes it clear, without the shadow of a doubt, that the world is off track when it comes to ending AIDS among children and adolescents by 2030,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore. That includes programs to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to babies, and programs “to treat the virus and prevent it from spreading among older children” that “are nowhere near where they should be.”

While the rate of mother-to-child infections has dropped by around 40 percent in the past 8 years thanks to medical intervention, the slowest decline in infection rates is seen among older children. Girls account for two-thirds of new HIV infections in adolescents.

Many infected children and adolescents, UNICEF said, don’t know they have HIV and have problems adhering to treatment after being diagnosed.

“While we have seen remarkable progress in the past decade among children aged 0-9 years, adolescents have been left behind in HIV prevention efforts. A staggering 360,000 adolescents are projected to die of AIDS-related diseases between 2018 and 2030 without additional investment in HIV prevention, testing and treatment programs,” said the report.

Saturday marks the 30th annual World AIDS Day. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “the pace of progress is not matching global ambition” as “new HIV infections are not falling rapidly enough.”

Guterres called for ending the stigma around HIV, more testing, increased access to treatment and increasing resources to prevent new infections.

“At this critical juncture, we need to take the right turn now,” he said.