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© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Every minute of every day, a child under the age of 15 is infected with HIV. AIDS kills 1,400 children every single day, and claims more than half a million young lives every year.

In rich countries, paediatric HIV/AIDS is largely under control: prevention of mother-to-child transmission is successful, and infants and children have access to diagnostics and antiretroviral therapy. But 88% of the 2.2 million children living with HIV/AIDS grow up in Africa, and the vast majority are beyond the reach of these health services. They are condemned to die due to lack of access to treatment.

Mèdecins Sans Frontières’s experience has shown that diagnosing and treating children infected with HIV/AIDS is much more difficult and expensive than for adults. The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on children has been, and will continue to be, devastating. By 2003, AIDS had left 15 million children under the age of 18 orphaned in its deadly wake; most now are in the care of their grandparents and other caregivers, or live in orphanages or in the streets. Children infected with HIV/AIDS are often denied treatment, based on the perception that their deaths are unavoidable.

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