|In Malawi, children sing about HIV prevention during a school AIDS club meeting at in the city of Blantyre. UNICEF assists the club, an extracurricular programme that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and supports children affected by the pandemic.|
VIENNA, Austria, 3 June 2010 – Over 25,000 delegates are expected to attend ‘AIDS 2010,’ the XVIII International AIDS Conference, which will take place between 18 and 23 July in Vienna, Austria.
The bi-annual conference brings together professionals working around the world in the field of AIDS prevention and treatment, people living with HIV, and health policy-makers. For the first time, this year’s theme – ‘Rights Here, Right Now’ – is bringing a human rights-based focus to the event.
Spotlighting human rights
As a venue for the conference, Vienna offers proximity to Eastern Europe and relatively close access to Central Asia, regions that have fast-gowing HIV prevalence rates. Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine and a city facing a major HIV and AIDS crisis, is only a two-hour plane ride away.
The conference’s human rights theme is particularly appropriate in this location. In Central and Eastern Europe, as in many parts of the world hard-hit by HIV and AIDS, those who lack some of the most basic human rights – such as health care, social support and productive livelihoods – bear the brunt of the epidemic.
Now spreading into mainstream society, the HIV crisis in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Central Asia, was initially fuelled by injected drug use; it has disproportionately affected the poor and underemployed. Thousands of children affected by the disease have been orphaned or are living on the streets.
‘Rights Here, Right Now’ reflects a growing commitment on the part of the international community to focus on the human rights issues underpinning the glbal AIDS crisis. The theme is based on the credo that universal access to treatment – and an end to the disease – will never be achieved without attention to fundamental rights.
Events for all
The International AIDS Conference traditionally has a major public presence, drawing huge crowds with high-profile events.
This year, some 15,000 people are expected to gather on 20 July for a human rights march through the streets of Vienna. The march will conclude in the Heldenplatz historical plaza, where activists and leaders will address the crowd. Celebrated international musician Annie Lennox will give a special presentation and musical performance.
At the conference venue itself, the ‘Global Village’ – an interactive exhibit hall for civil society and local community organizations – will also be open to the general public. There, various organizations, including UNICEF, will have a forum for presenting their work to conference delegates, Vienna residents and vistitors.
A strong presence
The Austrian National Committee for UNICEF will spearhead the organization’s presence at the conference, ensuring that UNICEF’s programmes safeguarding children from HIV and AIDS will be visible across Vienna. In the weeks before, during and after the conference, two city streetcars will bear UNICEF branding and the slogan ‘Babies Free From HIV’. The Austrian National Committee will also highlight UNICEF’s new ‘Mother-Baby Pack’, an innovative kit containing a complete, pre-packaged set of drugs to prevent transmission of the virus from mothers to their children.
And UNICEF plans to be heard as well as seen. The Austrian National Committee will distribute some 3,000 horns to participants at the human rights march so that no one misses its message about the urgency of protecting all children from HIV and AIDS.
The conference is organized by the International AIDS Society, the world’s largest independent network of HIV professionals. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organization and other UN bodies are among the international partners supporting the meeting. A delegation of about 50 UNICEF staff is expected to attend.
XVIII International AIDS Conference website
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