Silence Adversary in Myanmar's HIV/AIDS Fight: UNICEF Regional Director
Speaking with young people about HIV/AIDS saves lives
“One of the most important things parents, teachers and leaders can do is to speak honestly and directly with young people about the threat of HIV/AIDS,” said Ms. Singh. “Silence and ignorance are amongst our greatest adversaries in the fight against this disease.”
During her trip to Myanmar this week, Ms. Singh visited UNICEF-supported HIV/AIDS prevention programs for out-of-school youth in Kyinmyindine, and home-based care projects for people living with HIV/AIDS in North Okkalapa.
“I have been pleased to see young people learning how to stay healthy and protect themselves from HIV/AIDS,” said Ms. Singh. “It is particularly encouraging to see young people speaking with their peers about this disease.”
“Knowledge is the key to protecting Myanmar’s children and youth from HIV/AIDS. We need to help young people gain the understanding and develop the skills they need to stay safe.”
Myanmar has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in Southeast Asia, with an adult prevalence rate of approximately 1.2 percent.
“Millions of Myanmar’s young people are potentially at risk,” said Ms. Singh. Actively educating Myanmar’s children about HIV/AIDS will save thousands of lives.”
It is currently estimated that 3,000-4,000 infants in Myanmar contract HIV/AIDS from their mothers each year, and youth face a growing risk of contracting the disease from intravenous drug use or unprotected sex.
The numbers of children in Myanmar who are orphaned by HIV/AIDS each year is also on the rise.
“While one of UNICEF’s main areas of focus is prevention, we must also ensure that we care for children who contract HIV/AIDS, and for children who lose their parents to this disease,” said Ms. Singh.
Last week UNICEF helped support the launch of new hospital-based program to prevent the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, a program that will make prevention, treatment and care services more readily available to mothers and newborn children.
UNICEF also works with INGOs and the Myanmar Nurses Association to support comprehensive home-based care for infected children, children with infected parents, and children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Assistance includes family counseling and care training, psychosocial support, and support for children to attend school.
During her visit to Myanmar this week, Ms. Singh met with senior officials from the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) establishes that children have the right to survival, health treatment, and information on important matters. Myanmar ratified the CRC in 1991.
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