Children infected with HIV at birth do survive into adolescence, a study conducted in Zimbabwe seems to indicate.
Though generally it is believed that virtually all children infected with HIV at birth die before the age of five. But doctors working in sub-Saharan Africa have been noticing older children admitted in HIV clinics.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust then took up a study at a clinic in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and have now concluded that as many as one in four such children may survive into adolescence.
The study also underlines that the surviving children's growth has been stunted and hence they face some special disabilities when they enter puberty.
The findings, pointing to longer survival, coupled with attendant problems, could force greater attention to treatment of HIV-infected babies, a long-neglected area.
Vast numbers of children across the world become infected with HIV every year. Few receive paediatric antiretroviral treatment, which could help to keep them healthy. Without treatment, thousands die as a result of AIDS. In addition, millions more children who are not infected with HIV are indirectly affected by the epidemic, as a result of the death and suffering that AIDS causes in their families and their communities.
At the end of 2006, there were 2.3 million children living with HIV around the world. Over half a million children became newly infected with HIV in 2006. Of the 2.9 million people who died of AIDS during 2006, over one in ten were children. Every hour, forty children die as a result of AIDS.