More than 100 children die every day of AIDS-related illnesses in West and Central Africa, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS.
The UN programme said only three out of 10 children living with HIV in the region are on treatment.
Notably, of all new HIV infections among children globally, 36 percent occur in West and Central Africa. The region also has the lowest rate of newborn screening for HIV.
In 2020, 39, 000 children and adolescents aged 0-14 died of AIDS in the region, representing 39 percent of AIDS-related deaths globally in the age group.
During the same period, only around half of all pregnant women living with HIV had access to treatment to prevent transmitting the virus to their children, compared to 95 percent in Eastern and Southern Africa.
As part of a new campaign to stop new HIV infections among children in the region and ensure access to treatment, UNAIDS teamed up with Samba Peuzzi, a Senegalese rap sensation to mobilize young people in the fight to end AIDS.
The campaign, which was launched on Thursday to mark this year’s International Day of the African Child, will spread the word that HIV is preventable and treatable and encourages young people to get tested for HIV.
The month-long awareness campaign, which also involves other local partners, will be screened on Trace Senegal TV and radio as well as on social media channels.
“Access to HIV testing and treatment remains very unequitable across the continent. And the most unfair of all is that children in our region are dying,” Peuzzi said.
“HIV among children can be prevented and if children and young people get tested for HIV they can get the life-saving treatment they need. We must do better!”
UNAIDS said ensuring a young woman living with HIV has access to antiretroviral medicines throughout her pregnancy, during birth and throughout breastfeeding will stop the HIV virus from being passed to her child.
“We must act now, decisively and urgently, to make the next generation AIDS-free! That can only happen by getting young people involved in HIV prevention, testing, and treatment,” Patrick Brenny, UNAIDS regional director for West and Central Africa said.