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World Bank to Help Immunize 32 million Children in Pakistan Against Polio 

23 April 2011 01:03:13

World Bank to Help Immunize 32 million Children in Pakistan Against Polio


The World Bank’s Board of Directors Thursday approved a US$41 million additional financing for the Third Partnership for Polio Eradication Project (TPPEP) to support the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to immunize 32 million children against the crippling effects of polio with the goal of eradicating the disease from the country.

In 1988 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched, 125 countries reported an estimated 350,000 cases of polio each year. With the implementation of the strategies recommended by the initiative, cases of Polio transmission had dropped by 99% by 2006 and are now limited to only four countries, Pakistan among them. Due to the large scale floods of 2010 that affected over 20 million people and areas of conflict where access to health services has been limited, there has been a resurgence in the number of polio cases in Pakistan.

“Although Pakistan has seen great progress in the reduction of polio over the last 20 years, it remains one of the few countries where polio still impacts lives and recent increases in the number of cases are worrying,” said Rachid Benmessaoud, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “With this most recent support, we are assisting the implementation of the emergency plan to eradicate the disease entirely so no one will ever have to live with its devastating effects”.

Prior to the start of the monsoon floods at the end of July in 2010, a total of 27 polio cases had been reported. However, this number rose to 144 by year-end, compared to 89 confirmed cases in 2009.

The floods forced large scale population movements resulting in large population groups living together in temporary housing with inadequate water and sanitation facilities. This, in turn, has led to exposure of people who had not been previously exposed to the polio virus. In addition, the prevailing security situation affecting the populations in areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has seriously affected immunization coverage, with an estimated 90% of children under 5 years no longer receiving adequate immunization.

“Pakistan can eradicate polio from its territory. In order to achieve this, the country needs to ensure that every child under 5 years is vaccinated at each vaccination round,” said Kumari Vinodhani Navaratne, Project Team Leader. “Overcoming security related barriers has become critical since 75% of the confirmed polio cases are from KP and FATA.”

The project is the third in a series since 2003 that provide financial resources to the Government of Pakistan to procure the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) as part of the global campaign. It is also a part of a global effort to eradicate polio and is being supported through an innovative partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and Rotary International (RI) through the UN Foundation (UNF). With the achievement of the agreed results the IDA credit gets paid by these partners on behalf of the Government of Pakistan.

The credit is from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm. The credit carries a 0.75% service charge, 10 years of grace period and a maturity of 35 years

Protection of children against marketing of unhealthy food urged 

25 Januarie 2011 12:48:20

Protection of children against marketing of unhealthy food urged

The United Nations health agency has called for action to reduce the exposure of children to the marketing of food with high contents of fat, sugar or salt, which exposed them to the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCD) caused by poor diet during their lives.

Television advertising is responsible for a large share of the marketing of unhealthy foods and, according to available evidence, advertisements influence children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In May last year, WHO member states endorsed a new set of recommendations on the marketing of food to children. The recommendations call for national and international action to reduce the exposure of children to marketing messages that promote foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt, and to reduce the use of powerful techniques to market them to children.

“Noncommunicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, today represent a leading threat to human health and socio-economic development,” said WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Ala Alwan.

“Implementing these recommendations should be part of broad efforts to prevent unhealthy diets -- a key risk factor for several noncommunicable diseases,” he said.

Implementing the recommendations will help countries strengthen their ability to foster and encourage healthy dietary choices for children and promote the maintenance of a healthy weight, Dr. Alwan said.

According to WHO, 43 million pre-school children worldwide are either obese or overweight. Scientific reviews have also shown that a significant portion of television advertising that children are exposed to promotes “non-core” food products which are low in nutritional value.

Poor diet is one of the four common factors associated with the four main noncommunicable diseases -- cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic lung diseases -- which are responsible for about 60 per cent of deaths worldwide, or over 35 million people annually.

More than 9 million deaths are premature -- people dying before reaching the age of 60 -- and could be prevented through low-cost measures at the world’s disposal, including stopping tobacco use and promoting healthy diets and physical activity.

Excessive TV watching causes weight gain in Pakistani children too 

25 Januarie 2011 12:45:52

Excessive TV watching causes weight gain in Pakistani children too


By: Yasir Ilyas


Excessive watching of television leads to consumption of junk food and decrease in physical activity that cause weight gain and other diseases in watchers, especially children, interviews with Pakistani families confirmed results of global research report.


INFN conducted interviews here to testify the result of the study conducted by Dr Jean Wiecha say excessive television viewing itself is a health risk. The report suggests that watching TV encourages children to eat more junk food, particularly the soft drinks and French fries.


In the global research, 550 children of age group ranging between 11 to 13 years were taken as sample; it was found that Watching TV promotes trend of intake of food, preferring sofa-bound life style and avoiding exercise and physical activities.


The children were kept under observation by the researcher and she found that with every passing day, children are taking 167 calories more. The researcher considered advertisement of different junk foods as a major contributing factor.


In the light of this research report, INFN contacted a few mothers and children of almost same age group to testify the affects of the report in Pakistani perspective. It was found that results here were not much different as found in the United States.


Tahira Hanif, a mother said, “My children, who are students of grade five and seven spend almost four to six hours in front of TV and if I include the time they spend on computer as well, it exceeds almost 10 hours a day. And I have noticed that they consume a huge amount of potato chips and soft drinks and I felt they have put on a lot of weight as well,” said Tahira.


Hoorain Ali, a student of grade six in a school of capital said that though she doesn’t consume much time in front of TV and computer but even then she is gaining weight as she doesn’t have any outdoor activity. She considers that viewing TV much stops one to go to play grounds and this could be one of the reasons of putting on weight by watching TV. “I agree with the findings of the report.” Hoorain said.


Report also suggests that Viewing TV has become an alternative of physical games in the playgrounds as a source of entertainment.


Two brothers, Abdul Noor, 12, and Abdul Qadir, 13 use to play football barefooted as they do not have a television entertainment at the boarding school and no junk food. “With no TV and potato chips, we have only entertainment of playing football that keeps up healthy and fit with good stamina,” said the students of a religious school, hailing from Bajore Agency.


Dr. Nida Rehman, a general physician in the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) said the findings of the report, published in USA are right but the socio-economic status of children matters a lot. “Merely watching TV is not the only source of putting on weight, but consuming different junk foods and soft drinks during the time of watching, killing all the time in front of TV and not having any physical activity, and adopting sofa-bound lifestyle are the contributing factors as well. Otherwise Watching TV could have other health hazards includes eye-sight problems, headache and other mental as well as physical diseases.” Dr. Nida said. She said parents should have a check on the timings of TV watching by their children.—

Children living in slums face grave threats to health 

09 Januarie 2011 11:30:16 nm

Children living in slums face grave threats to health

Sohail Rashid

The non-availability of basic health facilities, coupled with lack of awareness, is posing a grave threat to the health of children living in the capital’s slum areas. Extreme weather conditions are further exacerbating the threat.

The residents of these slum areas obviously do not have the resources to pay attention to the health of their children, who remain exposed to the cold for a better part of the day and the entire night. Most of these children do not even have shoes to wear.

A visit to these areas brings a person eye-to-eye with children roaming about in a single garment, or a top or lower. Many of them have nothing to cover their bodies. Resultantly, pneumonia, whooping and chronic coughs, diseases of the respiratory tract, and other life-threatening illnesses are common among children living in the slums of sectors I-10 and I-11.

The parents of these children cannot afford proper treatment from a doctor. Whenever a child falls sick, they simply buy a cough syrup or tablets from a medical store and administer these to the child without knowing the exact nature of their ailment.

“I have syrups for cough and fever at home. Whenever my child coughs or suffers from fever, I administer a dose of these syrups to him,” Shabbir Khan, a resident of a slum in Sector I-11, said when asked by INFN how he takes care of his kids in harsh weather conditions.

Shaukat Ali, another resident of the slum, said, even though his children often remain sick during winter, he cannot afford to show them to a doctor. He lives in a house that has no main door; there is only a piece of cloth hanging in place of a wooden door. This cloth offers no protecting from the cold breeze.

“Children living in slums are good candidates of chest infection and pneumonia due to lack of protection and medical facilities. These diseases can be life-threatening for children who remain exposed to cold,” commented Dr. Zahid Minhas, a general physician at Holy Family Hospital. He urged the government to build dispensaries or small hospitals in such localities for the medical care of these people. “A free medical camp may provide some timely relief but it is not a solution to the problem. What these people need is a proper hospital,” he added.

UNESCO launches online game to educate youth about HIV/AIDS 

03 Januarie 2011 02:17:49

UNESCO launches online game to educate youth about HIV/AIDS

A new video game launched by the United Nations aims to provide young people with accurate and reliable information about HIV prevention, while educating, entertaining and promoting healthy behaviour.

The computer game, ‘Fast Car: Travelling Safely around the World,’ launched by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), targets young people over the age of 16 and is available in English, French and Russian.

While racing on circuits on five different continents and virtually visiting some of Unesco’s World Heritage sites, players will receive information on existing prevention practices, treatment and care for HIV and AIDS.

“The importance of the game consists in providing young people with information materials on HIV and AIDS that can be widely distributed through communication channels in order to help them to gain an accurate understanding of these issues and preventive practices,” the Paris-based agency stated in a news release.

Unesco notes that HIV-related issues can be a difficult topic of conversation, both for children and adults.

“Children may worry about parents’ disapproval and have fears about the risk of becoming infected with HIV,” says the agency.

“Parents,” it adds, “are often shy, lack accurate information about HIV and AIDS, or do not have sufficient skills to speak about prevention with their children, and teachers frequently assume that parents will talk with children at home.”

Empowering young people to protect themselves from HIV is one of the priority areas of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which notes that young people aged 15 to 24 account for two out of every five new HIV infections globally.

This means worldwide almost 3,500 young people are infected with HIV every day. Most young people still do not have access to the information, skills, services or social support required to enable them to prevent HIV infection, according to UNAIDS.

Drastic reduction in water intake causes health problems 

03 Januarie 2011 02:12:55

Drastic reduction in water intake causes health problems

Yasir Ilyas

People drastically reduce intake of water as the winter sets in, without knowing that a certain amount of it is necessary to keep the body system and metabolism right. So this reduction causes serious medical problems, including heartburn, acidity, skin problems and disorders in excretory as well as digestive systems.

All people, depending on their age-groups and internal metabolism rates, need different quantities of water in winter as well, which is usually not considered, as only a few people are aware of this fact. This practice leads to certain complications.

Naeem Hameed, the sales executive of a company dealing in mineral water, said: “People, who used to purchase two to three 18-litre bottles daily in the summer, buy just one bottle every third or fourth day as consumption of water reduces in the winter season.”

Salma Majeed, a housewife, said: “I used to fetch a 20-litre water can twice a day from the nearby drinking water filtration plant in summer, but now in winter I fetch the same can every third day. I know that drastic reduction in water consumption is dangerous for health, but I cannot force my children to drink more water.”

It is a fair comment by a mother of three, but on the other hand, there is a misconception. “The more they drink the more they pee. So it is good that my children drink less water in winter.” This was the view of another housewife.

Another myth, which is considered true by most people, is that drinking more water leads to more urination. This concept has medically been proven wrong. Urination moreover deals with the excretion of uric acid from the body, and water facilitates this excretion rather than adding to it. One, who does not drink water, will still urinate, and through this urination, he will certainly excrete certain useful salts of the body, so drinking water preserves those useful salts of the body. It has been witnessed that urinating without proper intake of water leads to weakness, which itself is a disease.

Feroz Bhatti, in his fifties, was sitting in the clinic of a doctor along Saidpur Road. He said that he feels heartburn, acidity in stomach and pain in kidneys, which becomes severe while urinating. “The doctor has advised me to increase the intake of water,” he said.

Talking to INFN, Dr. Zahid Minhas, a general physician at the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, said: “It is a wrong perception in our society that we associate the intake of water with increase in coldness. Our body needs a minimum of two litres of water in every condition to run certain intra-body functions.” He said that the reduction in intake of water leads to certain complications, which include heartburn, acidity and disorder in digestive and excretory systems. “A minimum of 8 glasses of water is necessary for the body daily to keep the skin alive and prevent urinary disorders,” he stressed.

According to him, the intake of certain other liquids like tea, coffee and ‘qehwa’ could benefit, but these drinks are not alternative to fresh drinking water. “The nature has kept certain useful elements, necessary for the body, in pure drinking water,” he said.

Keeping in view the wrong practice of reduction in intake of water in winter, it could be said: “Eight glasses of water a day keeps the doctor away.”

Avoidable Infections 

12 Desember 2010 09:57:57

Avoidable Infections

Developing world needs surveillance system

Healthcare-associated infections, an avoidable scourge estimated to affect hundreds of millions of people globally, are at least twice as high in the developing world as in high-income countries, according to the first review of its kind, co-authored by a United Nations health official.

Factors increasing the risk of such infections include poor hygiene and waste disposal, inadequate infrastructure and equipment, understaffing, overcrowding, lack of basic infection control knowledge and implementation, unsafe procedures, and a lack of guidelines and policies.

“Health-care associated infections have long been established as the biggest cause of avoidable harm and unnecessary death in the health systems of high-income countries,” said Benedetta Allegranzi, Technical Lead for the Clean Care is Safer Care programme at the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), co-author of the study.

“We now know that the situation in developing countries is even worse. There, levels of healthcare-associated infection are at least twice as high. One in three patients having surgery in some settings with limited resources becomes infected. Solutions exist, and the time to act is now. The cost of delay is even more lives tragically lost.”

Implementing system-wide surveillance, training, education and good communication, using devices appropriately, following proper procedures, and ensuring optimal hand hygiene practices are some of the solutions to the problem, according to the study. To be successful, they ultimately require a change of healthcare workers’ behaviour.

While surveillance systems exist in high-income countries, they are non-existent in the vast majority of middle- and low-income nations, with the consequent inability to determine the likelihood and magnitude of the risk of infection associated with each of the susceptible factors mentioned above.

“The number of health care-associated infections should be much lower in high-income countries, because we know what works and we have the means to act,” said Didier Pittet, Head of the Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety at the University of Geneva Hospitals and co-author of the Lancet study.

“Low- and middle-income countries face many more challenges, but this does not mean the problem is insurmountable. Several interventions are simple and low-cost.”

Issuance of CNICs to eunuchs 

08 Desember 2010 12:36:27 nm

Issuance of CNICs to eunuchs

NGOs sound caution over condition of medical testing

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and representative bodies of transgender community have sounded caution over imposition of a precondition for medical testing and obtaining certificates from the Ministry of Social Welfare, saying that the proposed exercise could potentially lead to harassment and exploitation of eunuchs.

The National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) has announced to include third section for eunuchs in the registration forms for issuance of computerised national identity cards (CNICs). All eunuchs would have to get individual certificates based on a medical test from the Ministry of Social Welfare proving their eligibility as sexual minority members. The medical test would include in some cases X-rays and endoscopies.

The Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA) -- a Karachi-based representative body of eunuchs -- has rejected the demand. GIA President Bindia Rana said the organisation would not accept the condition. “We didn’t accept undergoing a medical investigation before and we maintain the same position now,” Bindia said.

Almas Bobby, president of the Islamabad-based organisation, Shemale Rights of Pakistan (SRP), said the condition to get individual certificates from social welfare department could potentially be a source of harassment. Bobby said that the SRP welcomes the announcement under the Supreme Court instructions, but will always reject the condition of medical testing as a prerequisite for the issuance of CNICs to their community members.

The president of the Roshni Helpline, a Karachi-based organisation working for the rights of children, women and eunuchs, said that eunuchs are citizens of Pakistan and it is a fundamental right of every citizen to have a national identity card. This is their fundamental right and a legal requirement for all citizens to get identification documentation. Filling of the sexual representation section should be left for the individuals who know themselves better. I do not think mentioning in the third section as eunuchs will translate into exploitation of national resources and overstepping of someone’s rights or any threat to national security.”

He said the basic issue was that an ID should be issued to every citizen of Pakistan. “There are about 17,000 eunuchs in Karachi and none of them carries an identity card. A person without an ID card can be a threat to an individual or an institution, not a person who mentions a different sexual identification,” Ali added.

Welcoming results in global AIDS fight 

02 Desember 2010 10:45:35 nm

Welcoming results in global AIDS fight

UN urges world not to relent

ISLAMABAD, December 2, 2010: Significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS has been achieved over the past three decades, but the world must not relent in its efforts to roll back the pandemic, United Nations officials said , stressing the importance of preventing new infections and deaths.

“Our common goal is clear: universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We must also work to make the AIDS response sustainable,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark World AIDS Day.

“Three decades into this crisis, let us set our sights on achieving the “three zeros” – zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. On this World AIDS Day, let us pledge to work together to realise this vision for all of the world’s people,” he said.

He pointed out that despite the untold suffering and death that AIDS had visited upon mankind, the global community had united with passion to take action and save lives.

“Fewer people are becoming infected with HIV. Millions of people have gained access to HIV treatment. More women are now able to prevent their babies from becoming infected with HIV. Travel restrictions for people living with HIV are being lifted by many countries, as stigma gives way -- still too slowly -- to compassion and recognition of human rights,” the secretary-general said.

He called for stronger commitment to efforts that enabled the world to reach the first part of Millennium Development Goal 6 -- halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV. “We must continue to chart a new and bold path ahead,” Ban said.

The president of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, cautioned that gains in fighting the spread of the disease are fragile, recalling the millions of people who need anti-retroviral treatment, yet have no access to the drugs.

“There is no room for complacency, and we must do more and better to ultimately reverse the epidemic,” he said. “This is a clear message for the United Nations General Assembly, when world leaders will gather in June 2011 to review progress made in fighting the epidemic and in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.”

He urged governments, civil society, people living with HIV, the private sector and the UN as a whole to engage constructively to make the 2011 high-level meeting a success. “People living with HIV and affected by the epidemic deserve no less,” Deiss said.

Michel Sidibe, the executive director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), noted that the number of new HIV infections and deaths have been reduced by nearly 20 per cent, but lamented that some 30 million people had lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses over the past three decades, while an estimated 10 million people are currently awaiting treatment.

“Our hard-won gains are fragile -- so our commitment to the AIDS response must remain strong,” Sidibe said in his message.

“With your commitment and that of UNAIDS and the UN family, we are changing the course of the AIDS epidemic. I have called for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015,” he added, stressing that an “AIDS-free generation is possible in our lifetime.”

The latest UNAIDS report released last week shows that an estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV, nearly 20 per cent fewer than the 3.1 million people infected in 1999. In 2009, 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses, nearly one-fifth lower than the 2.1 million people who died in 2004.

According to the report, from 2001 to 2009, the rate of new HIV infections stabilized or decreased by more than 25 per cent in at least 56 countries around the world, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the five countries with the largest epidemics in the region, four countries -- Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- have reduced rates of new HIV infections by more than 25 per cent, while Nigeria’s epidemic has stabilised.

Margaret Chan, the director-general of the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), called in her message for the protection of the human rights of those living with HIV/AIDS and urged all sectors to combat discrimination against those infected.

“Working with people living with HIV is critical for an effective HIV response and Member States need to be mindful of the commitments made in the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS to promote better legal and social environments for people to access HIV testing, prevention and treatment,” Ms. Chan said.

She stressed that those affected by the disease are entitled to social services, including education, housing, social security and even asylum. “Ensuring the rights of people living with HIV is good public health practice, by improving the health and well-being of those affected and by making prevention efforts more effective.

“A wide range of countries have enacted legislation to prevent discrimination against people living with HIV. However, in many cases, there is poor enforcements of such laws and stigmatisation of people living with HIV and most-at-risk populations persist,” she added.

Meanwhile, new WHO guidelines released recently show that children and adults living with HIV can be protected from tuberculosis (TB) infection with a regular, low-cost preventive medication. Of the nearly two million AIDS-related deaths each year, a quarter of them are associated with TB.

Due to their weakened immune system, people living with HIV are less able to fight TB infection and are more likely to develop active TB which can be deadly and can spread to others.

In some communities, up to 80 per cent of people with TB test positive for HIV. Taking medicine containing the anti-TB drug isoniazid is a simple and cost-effective measure that prevents the TB bacteria from becoming active if it is present.

Known as Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT), the treatment approach is not new, but has been underused. Only 85,000 people, or 0.2 per cent of all those living with HIV, received isoniazid for TB prevention in 2009.

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day, it is clear that managing HIV must include addressing TB,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, the director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS Department. “We need to fully implement the WHO Three I’s for HIV/TB strategy in collaboration with all partners. The Three I’s are Isoniazid Preventive Therapy, Intensified TB screening and Infection control for TB,” he said.

Achieving AIDS-free generation possible with stepped-up prevention 

01 Desember 2010 12:17:24 nm

Achieving AIDS-free generation possible with stepped-up prevention

ISLAMABAD: December 1, 2010: Although 370,000 children are born with HIV each year, achieving an AIDS-free generation is possible if the world steps up efforts to provide universal access to prevention, treatment and social protection, according to a new United Nations report released Wednesday.

But attaining this goal depends on reaching the most marginalized members of society, the report -- ‘Children and AIDS: Fifth Stocktaking Report 2010’ -- warns, noting that millions of women and children have fallen through the cracks due to inequities rooted in gender, economic status, geographical location, education level and social status.

“To achieve an AIDS-free generation we need to do more to reach the hardest hit communities,” UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) Executive Director Anthony Lake said in New York in launching the report, compiled jointly by his agency, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Every day, nearly 1,000 babies in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission. Our Fifth Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS highlights innovations like the Mother Baby Pack that can bring life-saving ARV (antiretroviral drugs) treatment to more mothers and their babies than ever before.”

Such treatment prevents mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). AIDS is one of the leading causes of death among women of reproductive age globally and a major cause of maternal mortality in countries with generalised epidemics. In sub-Saharan Africa, 9 per cent of maternal mortality is attributable to HIV and AIDS.

“Around 370,000 children are born with HIV each year. Each one of these infections is preventable,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said. “We have to stop mothers from dying and babies from becoming infected with HIV. That is why I have called for the virtual elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015.”

WHO revised its guidelines earlier this year, to ensure quality PMTCT services for HIV-positive pregnant women and their infants. In low- and middle-income countries, 53 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV received ARVs to prevent mother-to-child transmission in 2009 compared to 45 per cent in 2008. One of the most significant increases occurred in eastern and southern Africa, where the proportion jumped 10 percentage points, from 58 per cent in 2008 to 68 per cent in 2009.

“We have strong evidence that elimination of mother-to-child transmission is achievable,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said. “Achieving the goal will require much better prevention among women and mothers in the first place.”

WHO also issued new ARV guidelines for treating infants and children, paving the way for many more children with HIV to be eligible for immediate antiretroviral treatment (ART).

In low- and middle-income countries, the number of children under the age of 15 who received treatment rose from 275,300 in 2008 to 356,400 in 2009. This increase means that 28 per cent of the 1.27 million children estimated to be in need of ART receive it.

Infants are particularly vulnerable to the effects of HIV, which has lent urgency to the global campaign for early infant diagnosis. While the availability of early infant diagnosis services has increased dramatically in many countries, global coverage still remains low, at only 6 per cent in 2009. Without treatment, about half of the infected infants die before their second birthday.

In most parts of the world, new HIV infections are steadily falling or stabilizing. In 2001, an estimated 5.7 million young people aged 15–24 were living with HIV. At the end of 2009, that number fell to 5 million. However, in nine countries -- all of them in southern Africa -- at least 1 in 20 young people is living with HIV.

Young women still shoulder the greater burden of infection, and in many countries women face their greatest risk of infection before age 25. Worldwide, more than 60 per cent of all young people living with HIV are female. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is nearly 70 per cent.

“We need to address gender inequalities, including those that place women and girls at disproportionate risk to HIV and other adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes,” Unesco Director General Irina Bokova said. “While we are encouraged by a decline in HIV incidence among young people of more than 25 per cent in 15 key countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 2001 and 2009, we must do everything possible to sustain and increase such positive trends in order to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.”

Adolescents are still becoming infected with HIV because they have neither the knowledge nor the access to services to protect themselves. “We must increase investments in young people’s education and health, including sexual and reproductive health, to prevent HIV infections and advance social protection,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said.

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