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AIDS Now Top Killer Of Teens In Africa: UNICEF

The new global data from UNICEF showed that AIDS is the now the top killer among teenagers in Africa. Around the world, AIDS is the second most prevalent cause of death among adolescents.

Since 2000, the figures of teenage deaths stemming from AIDS-related illnesses has tripled. The teenagers ranged between 10 to 19 years old.

"We've collectively dropped the ball in the second decade of childhood," said UNICEF's HIV and AIDS division chief Craig McClure. Due to the lack of treatment designed for adolescents, children who were born with the virus die when they reach their teenage years. Moreover, only one-third of the 2.6 million children born with HIV were treated.

Teenagers who were born without the HIV virus also carry risks. The infection rate among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old now generate 26 new cases per hour. Seventy-percent of HIV-infected teenagers were female. McClure added that while females are physically more vulnerable to HIV, factors such as child marriage and illiteracy also affect the HIV teenage statistics.

UNICEF's new global data revealed that majority of the teenagers who died of HIV acquired the disease during their infant years. This was the time, 10 to 15 years ago, when fewer pregnant women with HIV were given antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-baby HIV transmission.

Starting 2000, due to the advancement of mother-infant antiretroviral treatments, almost 1.3 million potential infections among children were prevented. In 2014, there is a 60 percent reduction in the AIDS-related demise among children below four years old. Three in five expecting mothers were given antiretroviral treatment and largely contributed to the reduction since 2000.

"The gains we have made on preventing mother to child transmission are laudable, and to be celebrated," added McClure who also stressed the need for immediate treatments for children and teenagers who are HIV infected, nearly half of which are concentrated in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, India, Nigeria and South Africa.

UNICEF's Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS report is available online.

Photo: Dylan Walters | Flickr

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