Via aidsmap, by Michael Carter

Universal adult access to antiretroviral therapy compared to current roll-out could prevent over 4 million more children being orphaned because of HIV in the sub-Saharan African countries hardest hit by AIDS, according to published in the online journal AIDS Research and Therapy.

“Results from this study highlight the positive impact that expanded ART [antiretroviral therapy] may have in sub-Saharan countries already burdened with high numbers of AIDS orphans,” comment the investigators. They add, “we found that achieving universal ART uptake among adults may avert over 4 million maternal, paternal and double AIDS orphans over the next 10 years.”

It is estimated that 11.6 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have already lost one or both parents because of HIV. Orphans have greater material, physical, health-related and psychological need, and there is also evidence that they have higher levels of HIV-related risk behaviour. Moreover, HIV-infected orphans often delay accessing essential care and have poor rates of adherence to HIV therapy.

Antiretroviral therapy has significantly reduced rates of HIV-related illness and death. At the end of 2008, it was estimated that 44% of eligible patients in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving HIV therapy.

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