By Rebecca Zerzan
NEW YORK, USA, 8 February 2012 – The world is now closer than ever to the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
|VIDEO: UNICEF Chief of HIV/AIDS Craig McClure discusses the challenges faced by the organization and the strides it has made in the HIV/AIDS programme. Watch in RealPlayer|
“But the irony is that this is coming just as resources are waning,” said Craig McClure, UNICEF Chief of HIV and AIDS, at the UNICEF Executive Board’s first regular session of 2012, as he summarized the achievements of UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS programme and outlined the challenges it continues to face.
Combatting HIV/AIDS will be part of UNICEF’s next medium-term strategic plan (MTSP), for the period 2014–2017, which will guide UNICEF’s work within a complex and rapidly changing environment affected by a global decline in financial resources.
“We must become – and we are becoming – more efficient at doing more with less,” he said.
Addressing key target areas
“We have made remarkable headway in reducing the number of children newly infected with HIV,” Mr. McClure said. “New HIV infections among children have declined from a peak of about 550,000 infections in 2001 to 390,000 in 2010.”
But not enough children are being reached. Less than a quarter of HIV-positive children in low- and middle-income countries have access to life-saving treatments, compared to half of HIV-positive adults.
UNICEF’s roadmap for 2014-2017 will target three key HIV areas: the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV; increased support for families and children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS; and reducing HIV risks and vulnerability among adolescents. These combined efforts will help countries provide essential services and assistance to those already affected by the disease while critically reducing the number of children exposed to infection.
|VIDEO: UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta highlights the roadmap that will help the organization address challenges in the coming years. Watch in RealPlayer|
UNICEF will also address key affected populations, such as adolescents exploited in sex work, injecting drug users and vulnerable members of marginalized communities.
“Although these issues are complex, unpopular and difficult to address, addressing them is critical,” Mr. McClure emphasized. “Not only is it a public health concern, it is also an issue of child rights.”
Transforming practices and funding
Keeping with the theme of innovation, Mr. McClure highlighted the importance of adopting practices that will accelerate progress against the epidemic.
“We are working to change the way we do business in this area, focusing on innovations that will have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time,” he explained. These innovations include increasing point-of-care diagnosis for mothers and babies and implementing technologies that speed infant diagnosis. UNICEF is also working with partners to develop and standardize low-cost treatments.
UNICEF must also transform its HIV funding, Mr. McClure said, diversifying funding sources to ensure that its work can continue.
|© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0032/Susan Markisz|
|UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the first regular session of the 2012 UNICEF Executive Board at United Nations Headquarters.|
Setting the pace for action on behalf of children
The UNICEF Executive Board was also briefed on the roadmap for the next MTSP, for 2014-2017, which will help set the pace for global action on behalf of children and ensure that the organization is able to efficiently and effectively address future challenges.
“It is a document that sets out strategic priorities for our work as the lead agency for the UN on behalf of children,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “It sets ambitious goals and new standards for performance.”
Richard Morgan, UNICEF Director of the Division of Policy and Practice, who presented the roadmap, emphasized that it was a ‘living’ document, one that will evolve through consultation with Executive Board members and the outcomes of intergovernmental conferences in the next few years.
“We will be undertaking a review of major challenges faced by children around the world and in different regions and country situations,” Mr. Morgan said, “with a strong emphasis not only on more equitable outcomes for children but also on strategies by which these equitable results can be achieved.”
UNICEF Executive Board 2012