UN report stresses the need for timely screening of newborns at risk of HIV, which can save many lives.
"Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the prospects for survival of newborn babies exposed to HIV," said the report published by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
"Without appropriate treatment, half of children with HIV will die from an HIV-related cause by their second birthday," warned UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman.
"Survival rates are up to 75 percent higher for HIV-positive newborns who are diagnosed and begin treatment within their first 12 weeks."
Outgoing UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot remained optimistic about the mother-to-child HIV transmission prevention, which he called a "human right."
"We are seeing good progress in many countries, especially in parts of Africa, but we need to significantly scale up HIV testing and treatment for pregnant women," he said.
But in 2007, less than 10 percent of newborns with HIV-positive mothers were tested for the virus, the report noted, also forecasting progress in some of the most affected countries where early screening will increase, including South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan stressed the "need to focus on strengthening our healthcare systems to ensure that all mothers and children receive treatment as early as possible."