Children are not only personally affected by HIV/AIDS but it is also affecting their families and their right to a parental care and affection. UNICEF finds that infection can lead children to drop out of school; infection of parents can lead children to engage in child labour in order to survive. Many children are orphaned and highly exposed to abuse, exploitation and neglect because of a loss of a parent(s) or guardian. It is estimated that a child looses a parent to AIDS-related infections every 14 seconds, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many situations also put children at higher risk of getting infected such as recruitment into armed conflict, trafficking, displacement, etc. In 2005 UNICEF estimated the number of children below 15 infected with HIV to be 2.3 million. Approximately 570,000 children were found to have died from AIDS at the time of the study. 80% of children orphaned by AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2008 Avert found that there are 2.1 million children in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 430,000 children were infected with HIV in 2008. Every hour, 31 children around the world die because of AIDS. Beyond the direct impact of being infected by AIDS, children are impacted by their parent's infection. Many children end up being the sole breadwinners of the family and head of their households. Children infected often don't receive the correct medicine since it is mostly available in tablet form and especially younger children require syrups or powers. The tablets are often administered by breaking them and hence children are at risk of receiving too much or too little in their doses. Children living with HIV/AIDS are also more susceptible to infections of other kinds due to their weakened immune systems such as Tuberculosis and PCP.
According to UNICEF India there are 220,000 children infected by HIV/AIDS in India. It is approximated that every year 55,000 to 60,000 children are born to mothers who are HIV positive. 30% of these children are likely to be infected themselves.
According to a publication of NACO and MWCD there are 2-3 million people in India living with HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that 70,000 children below the age of 15 infected with 21,000 children being infected through mother-child transmission every year. HIV infection in extremely young children is especially fatal. Young children progress through the disease at a much faster rate. 33% of children with HIV die within the first 12 months, 50% by 24 months and 60% by 36 months. For young children early detection, nutritional supplements and medical treatment especially antiretroviral therapy is essential for survival. Children living with the disease experience a great deal of social stigma and discrimination. This results in children being marginalised from essential services such as education and health.
An approximation for the number of children affected by AIDS varies greatly. The number of children infected with HIV/AIDS varies from 55,000 to 220,000. Roughly 1,500,000-2,500,000 children have been orphaned by AIDS and another 6,000,000-10,000,000 children have a positive parent. The highest cause of child HIV/AIDS is mother to child transmission (MTCT). Other than MTCT other ways of contracting the disease among children has been sexual contract including sexual abuse, blood transfusion, unsterile syringes, and intravenous drug use.
Some areas of concern are the discrimination faced by orphaned children of HIV/AIDS parents, lack of funding or utilization of funds in giving treatments, unsafe health care practices, and lack of attention to HIV/AIDS amongst children in health policy. Child affected by AIDS need medical treatment, counselling, support from extended families, and other non-institutional care, and help with medical care for parents so as not to create debt and need for child labour.
As part of an attempt to help children living with HIV/AIDS, UNICEF in collaboration with national organisations and the Government of India have put children on the agenda of the National Aids Control Plan III. The aim is to prevent parent to child transfer of the disease, and provide care and medical treatment to children infected with HIV/AIDS.