Only one in 20 of the H.I.V.-infected children worldwide who need life-prolonging drugs gets them. Only one out of 100 gets a cheap antibiotic that can nearly halve death rates from secondary infections like diarrhea and malaria. Less than one in 10 mothers infected with the H.I.V. virus are given drugs that can stop transmission to their babies.
Every minute of every day a child dies of an AIDS-related illness.
Ten agencies of the United Nations, including the United Nations Children's Fund and Unaids, announced a campaign on Tuesday to raise the profile of children with H.I.V./AIDS, firing off text messages to millions of cellphone users in Africa to spread the word.
"Twenty-five years into the pandemic, this very visible disease continues to have an invisible face, a missing face, a child's face," said Unicef's executive director, Ann M. Veneman.
The United Nations effort on behalf of H.I.V.-infected children reflects the broadening scope of efforts to tackle AIDS, said Dr. Peter Piot, head of Unaids. Early on, when money was scarce, public health efforts focused on prostitutes who were at highest risk of spreading the disease.
Also, he said, as the pandemic matures, the necessity of helping growing multitudes of children orphaned by AIDS becomes ever more pressing. Fifteen million children have now lost one or both parents to AIDS, reports the New York Times.
At the kick-off at UN headquarters, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the world to "unleash all our energy and imagination" to help fight "one of the cruellest tragedies of our time."
"Millions of children and young people are already affected by the pandemic - including those infected through the most heart-reading from of transmission, mother to child," Annan said.
"They often lack simple and fundamental information that is crucial to their safety. As we know, in the world of Aids, silence is death."
At a pre-launch press briefing on Monday, Unicef's executive director Ann Veneman said children are the "invisible face" of a very visible disease and are missing out on the help that is going to adults to fight Aids and help prevent its spread, informs Scotsman.