Today is World AIDS Day, and even while another pandemic takes the headlines, HIV/AIDS continues to shatter lives, families, and communities. I’m therefore continuing my tradition of sharing stories and statistics about parents and children with HIV/AIDS.
Here are the latest sobering worldwide statistics about parents and children of all orientations and identities. According to UNICEF:
Of the estimated 38.0 million [confidence bounds: 31.5-44.6 million] people living with HIV worldwide in 2019, 2.8 million [1.9-3.7 million] were children aged 0-19. Each day in 2019, approximately 880 children became infected with HIV and approximately 310 children died from AIDS related causes, mostly because of inadequate access to HIV prevention, care and treatment services.
As of 2019, roughly 13.8 million [10.2-17.9 million] children under the age of 18 had lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes. Millions more have been affected by the epidemic, through a heightened risk of poverty, homelessness, school dropout, discrimination and loss of opportunities. These hardships include prolonged illness and death. Of the estimated 690,000 [490,000-990,000] people who died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2019, 110,000 [74,000-180,000] (or approximately 16 per cent) of them were children under 20 years of age.
In 2019, around 150,000 [94,000-240,000] children aged 0-9 were newly infected with HIV, bringing the total number of children aged 0-9 living with HIV to 1.1 million [780,000-1.3 million]. Nearly 90 per cent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. One bright spot on the global horizon is the rapid decline of approximately 52 per cent in new HIV infections among children aged 0-9 since 2010 due to stepped-up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. However, the number of new HIV infections among adolescents (aged 10-19) has declined at a slower rate of about -34 per cent.
While those numbers are marginally better than in the previous year, UNICEF also notes that progress “is at risk of stagnating or even reversing if women and children are unable to access essential HIV services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It’s not a matter of choosing to fight one pandemic over the other, though. Our work to address these diseases must go hand in hand. Perhaps some of the lessons learned from dealing with one pandemic can even help us address others. This is why epidemiologists are important and why we must listen to them as well as to people in the communities hardest hit by any pandemic. As we observe World AIDS Day today, then, let us also recommit to demanding that our elected officials to conduct science-based policymaking, guided by a sense of humanity, international cooperation, and social justice.
This year’s World AIDS Day also coincides with #GivingTuesday. I hope many choose to include AIDS-related organizations in their giving, for they are among the many charities that need our help this year.