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Over 1,000 children infected with HIV daily

/ Source: The Associated Press

Despite progress in preventing HIV transmission from pregnant mothers to their babies, more than 1,000 children around the world were infected with the disease each day in 2006, according to a U.N. report.

Some sub-Saharan African countries — such as Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa and Rwanda — greatly increased access to treatment for vulnerable mothers between 2004 and 2005, said the report issued Tuesday by the New York-based U.N. children’s fund.

But worldwide, 410,000 to 660,000 children under the age of 15 were infected with the disease last year — mostly during or immediately after birth — the report said. Half of them will die of AIDS-related diseases within two years if they do not receive appropriate medical treatment.

Only seven countries are on track to meet the target of providing access to treatment for 80 percent of women in need by 2010, UNICEF spokesman Patrick McCormick said. These countries are Argentina, Brazil, Botswana, Jamaica, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine.

Overall, only 9 percent of HIV-infected pregnant women in middle- to low-income countries were receiving anti-retroviral drugs to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission, the report said.

UNICEF said early diagnosis and treatment with cost-effective drugs were crucial to achieving a turnaround in the AIDS epidemic, which claims about 2.9 million lives worldwide each year, including some 380,000 children.