Unless leaders tackle stark inequalities, the world could face 7.7 million AIDS-related deaths over the next 10 years, the Joint UN Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) warned on Monday in a new report.
In an urgent call to action ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1, the agency focused on ending the disease as a public health threat by 2030, said that if transformative measures are not taken, the world will stay trapped in the COVID-19 crisis and remain dangerously unprepared for all future pandemics.
The message comes as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that at least 310,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2020, or one child every two minutes.
Another 120,000 children died from AIDS-related causes during the same period, or one child every five minutes.
Their latest HIV and AIDS Global Snapshot warns that the COVID-19 pandemic is deepening the inequalities that have long driven the HIV epidemic, putting vulnerable children, adolescents, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers at increased risk of missing life-saving HIV prevention and treatment services.
"Progress against the AIDS pandemic, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence-prevention programmes and more," Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director said.
"We cannot be forced to choose between ending the AIDS pandemic today and preparing for the pandemics of tomorrow. The only successful approach will achieve both".
According to UNICEF, 2 in 5 children living with HIV worldwide, do not know their status, and just over half of children with HIV are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART).
"Unless we ramp up efforts to resolve the inequalities driving the HIV epidemic, which are now exacerbated by COVID-19, we may see more children infected with HIV and more children losing their fight against AIDS," Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director said. (ANI)