Kolkata: An estimated 70,000 children are infected with HIV in the country and the ailment is caused to most of them by parent-to-child-transmission (PTCT), according to a recent finding by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
Participants of a UNICEF-state AIDS Prevention and Control Society seminar here said, quoting NACO estimates, that a small proportion of these children are infected by unsafe injections and blood transfusions.
“UNICEF supports the government in its effort to halt and reverse the HIV/AIDS outbreak in India to reduce the transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children,” the country chief of UNICEF, HIV and AIDS, Ivonne Camaroni told PTI on the sidelines of the seminar yesterday.
With 21,000 children infected every year through PTCT, the UNICEF wanted to provide strategic supplies of drugs and commodities, improve the capacity of staff by developing innovative communication approaches for prevention and care and helping to improve monitoring and reporting systems.
The possible factors behind infection of children were mother-to-child transmission, blood transfusion and HIV positive mothers not having availed prevention facility during pregnancy, Camaroni said.
“In West Bengal, UNICEF tied up with the organisation ‘Bengal Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS’ for a study which surveyed 995 HIV affected families,” another UNICEF official said.
The survey was on families who were HIV positive and have HIV/AIDS infected or exposed children, another UNICEF official said.
The number of children affected with HIV was high in districts like North and South 24 Parganas, Kolkata, East Midnapore, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.
Economic profile of the families show that 72.3 per cent fall in the BPL category, with most belonging to the unorganised sector and daily wage earners.
“The report findings give us a glimpse into the harsh reality faced by the families and children living with HIV and AIDS,” UNICEF West Bengal chief Lori Calvo said.
The finding showed that 29 per cent of fathers and 33 per cent of mothers of the surveyed children were illiterate.
“The study underscores the need to improve existing services in terms of access to appropriate medicine, nutrition and additional services like free transportation based on the socio-economic condition of the families,” Camaroni said.