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UNICEF lauds White House leadership on AIDS bill

NEW YORK, 29 April 2003 – UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy commended the White House for its leadership in endorsing a $15 billion emergency bill to tackle AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean today. The bill promotes an “ABC”
prevention package (Abstinence, Be Faithful, Consistently use Condoms) that sidelines efforts by some to keep condoms out of the final legislation.

Bellamy’s remarks followed President Bush’s endorsement of the AIDS bill at a bipartisan ceremony at the White House. The US President signalled his full support for the prevention, care and treatment bill, which is based on a successful Ugandan model that saw prevalence rates among pregnant women drop from 20.6 per cent in 1991 to 7.9 per cent by 2000.

“Investing in young people is the best strategy we have today for bringing the epidemic under control," Bellamy said. “In areas where the spread of HIV/AIDS is declining, it is primarily because young men and women are being given the tools and the incentives to prevent infection. We have seen remarkable progress in countries like Cambodia and Brazil, among others.”

Bellamy noted that UNICEF embraces the ABC model in its prevention efforts. “Young people have right to know about all the ways to prevent HIV infection, starting with abstinence, being faithful to one partner, and consistently using condoms,” Bellamy said.

“Because the future of the epidemic will be driven largely by the decisions that successive waves of young people make throughout their lives, investments should focus first and foremost on providing young people with the wherewithal to make the healthy, informed decisions that prevent HIV infection,” Bellamy said.

“Their decisions should be built on sound information and the ability to translate this information into healthy choices. This can only happen if young people also have access to ‘life skills’, meaning the ability to handle real life situations, especially those involving behavioural choices related to relationships, sex and drugs. And young people need access to youth-friendly, gender-sensitive health services, and a protective and supportive legal, social and familial environment,” Bellamy added. “This won’t only affect prevalence rates among young people – it’ll also slow the rate of transmission between parents and infants.”

More than half of those newly infected with HIV are between 15 and 24 years old – six thousand new infections each day in this age group, or 4 every minute. Girls are especially vulnerable. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than two-thirds of the 8.6 million young people (aged 15-24) living with HIV/AIDS are female. A UNICEF study in the same region showed that half the teenage girls surveyed didn’t know that a healthy-looking person could have AIDS.

The bill designates $3 billion a year for five years towards efforts to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, including money for anti-retroviral drugs and other treatment. It is intended to help prevent 7 million new infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs, and provide care for millions more suffering from AIDS, including children orphaned by the disease.

The countries to receive assistance are Botswana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Guyana, Haiti, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Bellamy encouraged the US Administration to direct a larger percentage of the total amount towards the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “The international community set up the Global Fund as the most efficient way to channel resources to developing countries to help them deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis. The Fund desperately needs more support – in money and in commitment - from the US in order to remain viable.”


 

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