Children and young people in focus at AIDS 2010
VIENNA, 23 July 2010 – UNICEF experts in HIV and AIDS, gathered from over 35 countries, said that the just concluded International AIDS Conference reaffirmed the critical importance of eliminating mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. Stigma, however, is still a major factor in keeping women and young people from accessing the services they need.
The number of children born with the virus every year is around 400,000. AIDS 2010 made the goal of effective elimination of HIV in newborns a worldwide priority.
UNICEF makes effective Prevention-of-Mother-to-Child-Transmission (PMTCT) a primary focus of its work, Executive Director Tony Lake told the conference.
“We have the evidence and we have the momentum that we need to have,” said UNICEF chief of HIV and AIDS, Jimmy Kolker. “The next wave of response should be shaped by reaching those hardest to reach so that coverage and follow up can be truly universal. Mother and child health and survival depend on it.”
Drug use and pregnant women
The success of PMTCT depends in good part on focusing on difficult and sensitive issues, such as drug use in pregnant women with HIV.
“Drug dependent women everywhere in the world face very high levels of discrimination because of their drug use and their HIV status,” said Nina Ferencic, UNICEF CEE/CIS region Senior Advisor on HIV and AIDS. “This social exclusion can lead to a mother avoiding antenatal care, or arriving just before delivery so the opportunity to prevent HIV transmission to her baby is lost. So the stigma makes the cycle of addiction and HIV even worse.”
Ms Ferencic is also the co-author of 'Blame and Banishment: The underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia' report released at AIDS 2010.
The scale of the problem is enormous, and the response is inadequate both in scale and efficiency.
Who is the vulnerable child
Protection of children affected by AIDS, challenges to prevention of HIV among adolescents, and services for HIV-positive young people were also topics of many sessions and seminars in Vienna.
UNICEF staff presented over 35 abstracts and posters, and one the contributions, by Dr. Priscilla Akwara on defining “Who is the vulnerable child” using population data from several countries, won the prestigious ICABA/IAS award.
To read more about the work of UNICEF at the conference, visit: http://aidsmap.org/page/1402198/..............................................................................................
For more information, please contact:
Indra Kumari Nadchatram
Unite against AIDS
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