Editor's note

Antiretroviral therapy available to pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV in southern Africa had been a remarkable public health success. In South Africa alone, the number of new HIV infections in children dropped dramatically from 70,000 in 2003 to 13,000 in 2017.

But the fight doesn’t stop there. There are millions of uninfected children who were born to HIV-infected mothers, and they have a far greater risk of early death than those whose mothers didn’t carry the infection. A study this week found that, in Botswana, HIV-exposed uninfected infants accounted for 26% of the infant population but 42% of all infant deaths. Similarly, in South Africa,  HIV-exposed uninfected infants accounted for 23% of the infant population but 38% of all infant deaths.

This means public health efforts need to reach beyond just preventing transmission and focus on other aspects of having an HIV-infected mother. These include less time breastfeeding as well as illness and early death of the mother, and the effects this has on the child.

Sasha Petrova

Global Editor, Australia

Top story

The largest number of HIV-exposed but uninfected children are in South Africa. Shutterstock

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