Liam Neeson sees HIV/AIDS activities in Mozambique
Maputo, 25 August 2005 – Film actor Liam Neeson (“Star Wars”, “Schindler’s List”) has come to Mozambique to gain first-hand insight into UNICEF-supported programmes in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Neeson, Goodwill Ambassador of the Irish Committee for UNICEF, will support the global UNICEF campaign on “Children and AIDS”. He was accompanied by the Committee’s Executive Director, Maura Quinn.
Neeson saw all four HIV/AIDS related programme areas supported by UNICEF, namely Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, Prevention among young people, Paediatric Treatment, and Protection and Care for Orphaned Children. He was moved by the plight of children who lost their parents to AIDS and who now have to make ends meet on their own. Among those Neeson met was a girl who lost her mother to the virus a year ago. Her father had already died two years earlier because of AIDS. Now, aged 14, the girl has to care for her three young brothers and sisters, and for her own one-year old baby. The girl is supported by the organisation Khulupira, many of whose members are HIV-positive themselves. Associations of People Living with HIV/AIDS are important partners for UNICEF in Mozambique in programmes for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Neeson also participated in a school session on HIV/AIDS prevention given by an activist working with Khulupira. He noticed the high level of awareness the 7th graders showed: “We are young, we still have to wait before we start sexual relationships,” one boy said.
The visit to Colégio Infantil, the transit centre for orphaned and abused children, resulted in another heart-breaking moment for the famous actor, when he got to know the sad story of three babies who were born to HIV-positive mothers. Although their status is not yet known, there is a high probability that they too are infected. The tour, however, hit an optimistic note when Neeson visited families who provided new homes to children who had previously lived in the transit centre.
Later on in his agenda was a visit to the Provincial Hospital which provides treatment to some 50 children living with HIV/AIDS and to the Health Centre in Beira’s Munhava neighbourhood, where pregnant women are encouraged to get tested for HIV. If the mother’s status is positive, she can participate in a programme to prevent vertical transmission to the baby.
UNICEF will launch the campaign globally on 25 October. It aims to bring children to the centre of the response to HIV/AIDS. Goodwill Ambassadors such as Liam Neeson are crucial partners in raising global awareness about the increasing impact of the epidemic on children throughout the world.