Germany's First Lady visits Moldova, Makes appeal not to discriminate against HIV positive persons and their families
"Discrimination hurts. It damages the lives of children affected by HIV/AIDS!" Eva Luise Köhler, the First Lady of Germany, stated that by respecting the rights of HIV positive persons, Moldova will join the concert of human rights observant nations.
Chisinau, August 31, 2006
“I hereby make an appeal to parents, school principals, doctors, employers and local authorities of Moldova to not discriminate against HIV positive persons and their families”, said Eva Luise Köhler, First Lady of Germany, in a press conference held in Chisinau on August 31st.
Eva Luise Köhler, the First Lady of Germany and Patroness of the German Committee for UNICEF visited UNICEF-supported HIV prevention projects in Chisinau, the capital, as well as in Balti, the most affected area in the country,on August 28-31. The First Lady met HIV infected persons, social workers, young people and families, and discussed with both parents and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
The President of the Republic of Moldova, Mr. Vladimir Voronin expressed the appreciation of Mrs Köhler’s mission to Moldova during their meeting at the Presidency. The meeting also brought into focus the concrete aspects that protect children and youth from the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
“One important message I have for the Moldovan society is that information and education against AIDS do make a difference, they are important and urgent. We must inform and teach prevention of HIV, directing our messages, particularly towards young people."
“That information of course must be age-appropriate, and culturally sensitive. However we must not wait until the end of adolescence to let young people know about HIV, because it might be too late”, added Mrs Köhler.
“The second message relates to my meetings with HIV positive families and to difficulties and stigma they face daily. I was saddened by hearing that employers fire HIV positive persons, that parents have to fight for enlisting their children with local kindergardens or primary schools. Too many doors remain closed to them, too much discrimination still exists” said Mrs Köhler.
The First Lady of Germany urged the Moldovan authorities, civil society - including the media - to let the entire population know that one cannot become HIV infected by simply working with an HIV positive person, that children will not become infected by sharing the same classroom with HIV positive peers, and that HIV is not transmitted by that type of contacts.
“I urge the society to fulfil each individual’s basic rights, by providing the HIV positive children with access to schools in their community of residence, by encouraging business owners to accept HIV positive persons as employees”.
The First Lady of Germany held long discussions with young volunteers and young journalists engaged in promotion of healthy lifestyles and fighting AIDS. “I commend UNICEF for exploring the potential of Moldova’s energetic and optimistic young people. One of the impressions I will take with me is that of a country of young people, who believe in the future of their homeland and who are ready to share their optimism, time and efforts”.
Moldova is a still low prevalent country in terms of HIV, with pockets or concentrated epidemics in biggest cities. Though the numbers of HIV-infected people in Moldova are relatively small (2,782 as of 31 December 2005), few negative trends raise concerns about a possible dramatic evolution. A constant increase in the incidence of HIV among adolescents and women can be observed after 2003, when a shift took place in the predominant ways of HIV transmission from intravenous drug use to he sexual one. The proportion of mother to child transmission in the country has worsened recently. In 2002-2004 a total of 12 cases of mother to child HIV-infection have been recorded, while in 2005 alone 10 cases have occurred.
No situation analysis of children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS has been conducted so far in Moldova, their precise number and their specific needs being unknown. The external assistance received by these children and their families is rather limited and fragmented. No Pediatric department in the country is specialized in the treatment of HIV positive children and at the moment children are hospitalized in a common facility with adults.
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