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Progress Reported in AIDS Campaign for Children

UNICEF sees ''breakthroughs'' in several African countries in efforts to prevent mother-to-child infection and to care for children with HIV. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Our subject this week is children and AIDS.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has just released a report on a campaign launched in October of two thousand five. UNICEF, the U.N. AIDS program and other groups wanted to bring greater attention to the needs of children affected by AIDS.

The report on the "Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS" campaign says there are signs of progress.

One of the biggest problems is the spread of HIV from mothers to children. Mother-to-child transmission was the main cause of the estimated half-million new infections last year in children under the age of fifteen.

UNICEF reports that several countries in eastern and southern Africa have made what it calls breakthroughs. It says they greatly increased the number of mothers who receive antiretroviral drugs. These medicines can prevent mother-to-child transmission.

For example, the report says Namibia increased coverage from six percent of mothers to twenty-nine percent. That was between two thousand four and two thousand five. And in South Africa, it says, the number rose during that same period from twenty-two percent of mothers to thirty percent.

However, the report says there are still far too many pregnant women infected with HIV who do not get antiretroviral treatment. Only nine percent of them in poor countries were getting the medicines in two thousand five.

UNICEF also reports gains in providing treatment to children who already have HIV or AIDS. The agency says testing programs and health worker skills have improved. Lower drug prices and simpler treatments have also helped in the care of children with HIV/AIDS.

Several countries increased HIV treatment for children by combining it with programs at treatment centers for adults. The report says the countries include Botswana, India, Rwanda, South Africa and Thailand.

Still there is much more room for progress. UNICEF says just one in ten infected children worldwide gets antiretroviral treatment. And only four percent of children born to HIV-infected mothers receive drugs to prevent infections that can be deadly.

The UNICEF report also discusses efforts to help the millions of children who have lost parents to AIDS. It says more and more are getting educations, thanks in part to the cancellation of school charges in several countries.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.