|© UNICEF Ireland/2008|
|In Dublin, Ireland, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman (left), young AIDS activists and Irish Aid Director General Brendan Rogers (right) pose with giant AIDS ribbon outside the Global Partners’ Forum on Children affected by HIV and AIDS.|
By Guy Degen
DUBLIN, Ireland, 7 October, 2008 – Developing social welfare services to ease child poverty and supporting vulnerable families led the agenda at the fourth Global Partners’ Forum on Children affected by HIV and AIDS, a two-day conference in Dublin co-hosted by Irish Aid and UNICEF this week.
Bringing together some 200 delegates from more than 40 countries, the Forum enabled professionals working on HIV/AIDS issues to share and discuss ways to improve the lives of children affected by the disease – particularly in the areas of health, education and welfare.
“All the evidence points to broad social protection and welfare approaches as a means of mitigating the impact of HIV on children,” Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said in his keynote address. “Our own history of social policy and protection, with the introduction of pensions and allowances, demonstrates the importance of these instruments in responding to household and child poverty.”
Finding better solutions
In her remarks, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman drew attention to global priorities for tackling HIV/AIDS.
Veneman stressed the importance of supporting families who are trying to cope with HIV/AIDS – and of finding multiple, community-based and community-led solutions, especially when children have no family to support them. And she said monitoring and evaluation would be needed to build a knowledge base of effective approaches.
Progress has been made in helping children affected by HIV and AIDS since the launch of UNICEF's Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS global campaign three years ago, Veneman added.
|© UNICEF Ireland/2008|
|Young AIDS activists mark the start of the global AIDS forum held at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin and co-hosted by Irish Aid and UNICEF.|
Social protection and broader awareness
Experts at the Global Partners’ Forum reported that some 2.1 million children are living with HIV worldwide – 90 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 15 per cent of families affected by HIV/AIDS receive external help, they said.
In seeking solutions for affected families, delegates examined social welfare initiatives such as cash transfers to alleviate poverty, improve education and boost nutrition in communities hard hit by the virus.
Singer-songwriter and AIDS activist Annie Lennox lent her support to the Forum, stressing that broader global awareness of HIV and AIDS will help fight the pandemic.
“What we must do is help people – the ordinary person in the street who wants to do something – to find a way to connect, to find a way to make a difference,” she said.
Messages of hope
Youth delegates from nine countries also shared their opinions and personal experiences with HIV and AIDS at the Forum.
One delegate from Uganda, Faith Kisayke, 16, is living with HIV and has lost both of her parents to AIDS. Faith participates in a support group for young people living with HIV called the Ariel Children’s Club. She told the Forum that the stigma of the disease is an enormous problem for many of her friends in the group.
“They have dreams, they have goals, they want to be big people, they want to make a change in the world, but they have no one to support them to help them build their future,” she said.
To symbolize the fragility of a child’s life, Irish children from Gort Community School in County Galway produced an art installation of eggs to be presented to delegates. Each one was inscribed with a personal message of hope in the fight against AIDS.