UNICEF places children, girls and women at the center of our response to HIV/AIDS. We direct resources and tailor strategies to meet the needs of those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in the communities where they live.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic derives in large part from unequal power relations between boys and girls, men and women, which restricts access to information and services. UNICEF therefore promotes gender-sensitive social and behaviour change to increase access, uses participatory processes to develop capacity for both genders - individually and in communities - to engage in prevention, care and support, and advocates for broad-based social change to tackle environments that feed the pandemic.
The over-arching theme in UNICEF’s strategy for HIV prevention among young people (popup) is to empower them to address prevention and care issues from their own perspective. This means using participatory techniques for planning, and acceptable and appealing channels of information to equip young people with decision-making skills.
It also means linking sexually-active young people with youth-friendly health and social services for Sexually-Transmitted Infections (STI) treatment, drug rehabilitation, voluntary counselling and testing, and condom supply. ‘People-centred advocacy’ is used to promote the free-flow of sexual health information crucial to saving lives - opening the social dialogue necessary to prevent HIV/AIDS and the stigma surrounding it. UNICEF-supported communication programmes will often use mass media ‘edutainment’, involve young people living with HIV/AIDS and enlist role models or other youth to encourage young people to adopt preventive behaviour for themselves and positive attitudes toward those needing care and support.
Life after birth for pregnant women and their children
At the forefront of UNICEF-supported programmes to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to infants (PMTCT) is raising awareness among parents and communities that, despite infection, new interventions offer hope for keeping their families healthy.
Prevention programmes encourage women to learn their HIV status and to use antenatal and PMTCT services. Keeping women and their children HIV-negative also means promoting social norms that encourage men’s responsible involvement in HIV prevention, pregnancy and antenatal care, and HIV counseling and testing.
UNICEF works with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to build alliances with opinion leaders and social groups to encourage broad-based social support for reducing stigma and promoting effective prevention and care. These locally-tailored programmes support community dialogue and problem-solving, thereby strengthening community members’ capacity to participate effectively in reducing stigma and discrimination.
UNICEF provides training in interpersonal communication for service providers to improve the quality of counselling on PMTCT and infant feeding choices. With its partners, UNICEF supports participatory advocacy directed toward national and provincial governments encouraging them to commit resources to scale-up PMTCT programs and support infant and young child feeding policies.
Supporting those made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS
The newest of UNICEF-supported HIV/AIDS programmes provides care and support for HIV- and AIDS-affected children and families. As countries improve access to treatment, care and support, community dialogue and capacity development strategies link HIV-positive mothers with a range of services. Women, their partners and children have access to anti-retroviral medications, psycho-social support, treatment for opportunistic infections and the means to prevent re-infection. This action communicates to HIV-positive women and their families that there is ‘life after birth’. As part of its ‘Caring Community’ focus, UNICEF will launch national and community initiatives to celebrate the role of caregivers and encourage men to shoulder more responsibility for care and support.
Efforts to meet the special needs of orphans and vulnerable children use social networks, dialogue and problem-solving to address their vulnerability, and use community-based programmes to meet the developmental needs of the youngest orphans. UNICEF provides ongoing support to NGOs who advocate with governments for greater attention to the needs of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
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