|© UNICEF Lao PDR/2009/Holmes|
|UN Secretary general Ban Ki Moon meets children from the UNICEF-supported Peaun Mit project for street children in Vientiane, Lao PDR.|
VIENTIANE, Lao People's Democratic Republic, 14 April 2009 – United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon praised the efforts of the UN and its partners to raise awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS in Lao PDR on a visit there this past weekend.
Mr. Ban was speaking at a youth centre in the capital, Vientiane, where he met representatives of people living with HIV and AIDS, and of other groups working on the issue.
“I am very much impressed by all that you are doing to help young people of Laos, to teach them awareness and the importance of prevention of HIV/AIDS,” the Secretary-General told reporters from a UNICEF-supported youth radio programme.
Although rates of HIV infection are low in Laos compared with other parts of South-east Asia, there are signs that it is gaining hold among some vulnerable adolescent groups.
Pointing out that the global campaign against HIV and AIDS is a priority for the UN, Mr. Ban applauded the young counsellors and volunteers – including a group of Buddhist monks – he met at a centre dedicated to helping people with HIV overcome stigma and integrate into society.
“It is very important for the community, the government and citizens of Laos to work together to provide good counselling, good care and support, and a good source of encouragement to people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Mr. Ban.
Established in 2001 under the Lao Women’s Union, the Vientiane Youth Centre is a pioneer in promoting youth capacity development and empowerment in the country. With assistance from the UN Population Fund, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and UNICEF, the centre runs a telephone hotline offering advice on HIV/AIDS issues, a clinic providing reproductive health services and a peer-to-peer education programme.
During his stop in Vientiane, Mr. Ban held talks with the President of Lao PDR, H.E. Choummaly Sayasone, and other government officials. In an address at the inauguration ceremony for a new UN headquarters, the Secretary-General said he was optimistic that the country would achieve the Millennium Development Goals and graduate from Least Developed Country status by the target date of 2020.
Mr. Ban congratulated the government for its steady progress in improving health, education and living standards, but stressed that challenges remain – such as overcoming child malnutrition, maternal mortality and poverty in rural areas.
A collaborative spirit
The Secretary General also highlighted a newly released MDG report as a valuable tool for the government and its development partners. He went on to urge greater investments in human development, the social sector and environmental sustainability.
In an address to more than 200 UN staff members working here, Mr. Ban said fostering a collaborative spirit among the various UN agencies was the most effective means of promoting development.