|A man holds a baby at a UNICEF-assisted centre for children suffering from HIV or other illnesses in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.|
By Shantha Bloemen
HANOI, Viet Nam, 20 March 2006 – The impact of HIV and AIDS on children is the focus of an historic two-day meeting in Hanoi this week as experts, activists, politicians and young people gather to discuss ways to stem the spread of the pandemic in East Asia and the Pacific.
The East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Children and HIV/AIDS from 22 through 24 March is the first meeting of its kind to focus attention exclusively on children in the region.
The consultation is being jointly organized by the Vietnamese Commission for Population, Family and Children, Family Health International, Save the Children, UNAIDS, UNICEF, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the World Health Organization.
The meeting follows on from last month’s Global Partners Forum on Children Affected by HIV and AIDS, hosted by UNICEF and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and supported by UNAIDS, which brought together senior representatives from 90 international and non-governmental organizations and governments.
In East Asia and the Pacific, the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents have already been devastated by the impact of HIV and AIDS. Not only does the disease claim the lives of children, it is robbing them of their parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, caregivers and other role models.
For many – all too often girls – HIV and AIDS is denying them their education, their future livelihoods and their place in society, and making them more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.
'Hanoi call to action'
This high-level meeting in Hanoi will concentrate on buttressing and expanding efforts to scale up prevention of new infections. It will also examine expanding treatment for those infected, and strengthen protection, care and support for children who have been or are being orphaned and made vulnerable by the epidemic with its catastrophic outcomes on the individual and the family.
During the three-day meeting an estimated 250 delegates from 23 countries in the region will seek to:
Delegates will strive to agree on a 'Hanoi call to action', which will outline responsibility and detail specific follow-up action by governments and civil society partners to scale up services for children.
Senior government representatives, civil society partners, non government organizations, donors, UN agencies and young people will participate in the meeting.
The consultation aims to provide a crucial platform to ensure that children are not missing from the national “roadmaps” currently being developed by governments to scale up universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services by 2010.
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