The UN charity UNICEF, has launched a global campaign to highlight the impact on children of AIDS.
The charity says figures of 1,800 infected with the virus every day, are a disgrace, particuarly as more than 95% with AIDS around the world are not receiving any treatment.
The charity says the children are the “missing face” of AIDS, overlooked by national and global policies.
As it launched the Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign, the charity said that although millions of children have been orphaned or otherwise affected by the virus, less than 10% received support.
The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, says AIDS is wreaking havoc on childhood, and nearly 25 years into the pandemic, help is reaching less than 10% of the children affected by HIV/AIDS, leaving too many children to ‘grow up alone, grow up too fast or not grow up at all’.
According to UNICEF every minute, a child dies of an AIDS-related illness, a child becomes infected with HIV, and four people aged between 15 and 24 become infected.
The charity predicts that 18 million children in sub-Saharan Africa could be orphaned by AIDS by the end of 2010.
To date an estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent to the virus, and AIDS orphans are often left without access to schooling, healthcare and other basic support and prevention services.
The charity also warns that the former communist countries of eastern Europe and Central Asia are facing the fastest-growing rise in AIDS infections in the world, and already more than three quarters of the 1.4m people affected in these areas were under 30, including increasing numbers of children.
Ann Veneman, the executive director of UNICEF, says in the last 25 years HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 20 million people and lowered life expectancy in the hardest-hit countries by as much as 30 years.
She says though a whole generation has never known a world free of HIV and AIDS, the magnitude of the problem ‘dwarfs’ the scale of the response so far.
The campaign aims to make progress for children based on internationally agreed goals in four key areas - the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, paediatric treatment, prevention and protection and support for children affected by AIDS.
The campaign was launched by David Bull, the executive director of UNICEF UK, UNICEF ambassador Jemima Khan and Nais Mason, a UNICEF advisor in Africa.
The charity UNAIDS said £31m was needed to fight AIDS in the next three years, but that there was a funding gap of at least £10m from 2005-2007 and called for a dramatic increase in AIDS funding, with a significant proportion targeted at helping children.
Revision date: July 7, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD