UNICEF presents: “Children and Adolescents Affected by HIV and AIDS in Metropolitan area of Buenos Aires”
UNICEF today presented a study entitled: ‘Children and Adolescents Affected by HIV and AIDS in the Metropolitan area of Buenos Aires,’ highlighting numerous constraints children and youth affected by AIDS are facing comprising their rights to protection, education, access to information and health services.
The study recommends that broad-scale national communication and media efforts are needed to change public opinion, prevent stigma and reduce the fatalistic attitude toward HIV and AIDS.
In addition, the study proposes that families receive help in informing children and youth of their HIV positive status, ensure continuous provision of medical services for children of HIV positive mothers, provide integrated support and information to families for treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS, and develop local health teams within the networks of referral centers.
“It is necessary to reinforce the strength of the family to sustain these children within public policies, and assign resources that diminish the risk of institutionalization,” explained Gladys Acosta Vargas, UNICEF Representative for Argentina.
The survey focuses on 1807 children affected by HIV in Buenos Aires out of an estimated 3,000 in the country. It also includes an in depth study of 19 of these children and youth. More than half of children in the study lost their mother, father or both parents to AIDS. Of the sample included in the survey, it was found that 93 per cent of HIV cases in children were caused through mother-to-child transmission. This coincides with national data and statistics.
The stigma associated with HIV and AIDS often leads families to conceal their children’s diagnosis not only from the children themselves but also in their communities. The study revealed that few children were aware of their diagnosis.
It has been stressed in the study that the family is the essential institution for providing care, organizing treatment, and medicines, and preventing transmission. In terms of institutionalization, the admission of children into minor’s institution, was found to be four times greater in children who had lost one of their parents, and nine times more frequent when both parents had died.
Recognizing the importance of transmission and prevention, Argentina introduced a policy in 1996 to mandate the use of antiviral medications in all pregnant women detected with the disease, and for all their infants within 45 days of birth. This policy, together with the implementation of testing of all pregnant women detected with virus. Despite this, more than 100 children are still born with HIV every year in Argentina.
In 2005, national and United Nations authorities estimated that already some 127,000 people were living with HIV and AIDS in Argentina, and only 60 per cent were aware of their status.
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