Times of India
10 June 2011
By Sumati Yenkhom
Unicef, in association with Bengal Network of People Living with HIV/ AIDS (BNP), has conducted a mapping of HIV positive children in the state. According to the study, a whopping 83% of the children covered inherited the deadly disease from their mothers while the rest were infected through blood transfusion.
"There is a need to prevent transmission of HIV from mother with appropriate intervention. Our focus should be to reach out to the unreachable so that the follow up is universal," said Dr Ivonne Camaroni of Unicef India’s chief HIV section.
The two–year study covered 18 districts across the state and mapped 1,639 children from 995 families where either of the parents or both are HIV positive. Of them, 857 children were found infected with the virus. North 24–Parganas topped the list with 124 infected children, followed by South 24–Parganas, with 78 children, while 72 were traced in Kolkata.
As many as 65% of the mothers covered in the study did not receive prevention on parent–to–child transmission services during their late stages of pregnancy. Only 16% of the infected children are on anti–retroviral treatment while 75% of them live in areas from where they have to travel at least 100 kilometres to access healthcare facilities.
Since about 72% of the families fall under the below poverty line category, most are unable to travel that far to avail the facilities. "The report’s findings give us a glimpse into the harsh reality faced by children and families living with HIV/ AIDS," said Lori Calvo, Unicef West Bengal chief.
The mapping, however, covered only children of parents who are members of HIV positive network. According to West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society (WBSAPCS), the state has about 1500 HIV positive children.
"This is only an estimate and does not reflect the exact figure. Despite efforts to eliminate new infection to children, there have been challenges," said WBSACPS project director Dr RK Vats.
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