Brazil pledged on Tuesday to reduce the rate at which HIV positive mothers transmit the virus to their newborns to just 1 percent by 2008.
The Brazilian Health Ministry, backed by UNICEF, announced it would provide 50,000 free AIDS tests to pregnant women and adolescents in the poorest regions of the country starting in 2006.
Last year, 75 percent of Brazil’s pregnant women were tested for AIDS and the additional tests should largely close the gap.
The ministry said early diagnosis of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, can allow treatments that avoid transmission to the baby in 99 percent of cases.
The ministry estimates that 600,000 of Brazil’s 183 million people are HIV positive, with about 21,000 of them children or teenagers. It said that about 9,000 of those were infected by their mothers.
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, about 740,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV, according to UNICEF.
"In spite of the alarming numbers, the policies to combat the epidemic haven’t given priority to issue of children. Children are rarely mentioned when AIDS is discussed," UNICEF representative Marie Pierre Poirier told reporters in Brasília, the capital of Brazil.
The effort is part of a campaign, which will also include education and expanded access to anti-AIDS drugs in Bolivia, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Paraguay, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor, reports AP.
This article appeared originally in Pravda – www.pravda.ru.