Ending the AIDS epidemic among children, adolescents and young women requires ambitious targets and a Super-Fast-Track approach. Building on the successes of the Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive, UNAIDS, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and partners launched Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free in 2016 to provide a framework for the urgent work ahead.
Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free prioritizes action in 23 countries that account for 87% of new HIV infections among children aged 0–14 years and approximately 87% of all children and adolescents living with HIV globally. In 2016, 2.1 million children were estimated to be living with HIV. In its first progress report, Start Free Stay Free AIDS Free reflects on the achievements made during the first year of implementation and highlights areas where urgent action is needed.
The report shows that globally in 2016, there were 160,000 new HIV infections among children and that 140,000 occurred in the 23 priority countries. Although there was an overall decline in new HIV infections, the decline was at a much slower rate than in previous years.
The report highlights concerns around new HIV infections among young women and girls. In 2016, around 200,000 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 years were newly infected with HIV in the 23 priority countries, 72% of whom were young women. Most—more than 70%—of all new HIV infections among young people are in sub-Saharan Africa, which also has the fastest growing youth population in the world.
The report offers a set of important actions countries can take to eliminate new HIV infections among children, to test and diagnose children and young people who may have been exposed to HIV and to ensure that children and young people access HIV prevention, quality medicines and age-appropriate sexual and reproductive education and care and support throughout their lives, free from stigma and discrimination. Other important actions include accelerating new medicines and diagnostics, promoting community engagement and services, voluntary medical male circumcision, access to information on sexual and reproductive health and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis for young people at a higher risk of HIV.