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Children: The Missing Face of AIDS

© UNICEF/UKR/2005/Konyk

UNICEF and UNAIDS Launch Global Campaign to Invigorate Action
for the Millions of Children Affected by HIV/AIDS

New York, Geneva, Kiev, 25 October 2005 – UNICEF, UNAIDS and other partners today launched a global campaign focusing on the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS on children, saying it was a disgrace that fewer than 5 per cent of HIV-positive children receive treatment and that millions of children who have lost parents to the disease go without support.

UNICEF said that children affected by the disease are the “missing face” of AIDS – missing not only from global and national policy discussions on HIV/AIDS, but also lacking access to even the most basic care and prevention services.  Millions of children are missing parents, siblings, schooling, health care, basic protection and many of the other fundamentals of childhood because of the toll the disease is taking.

According to UNICEF, every minute:

  • A child dies of an AIDS-related illness
  • A child becomes infected with HIV
  • Four young people aged 15-24 become infected with HIV.

In addition, an estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS, and millions more have lost relatives, friends, teachers, medical professionals, community leaders and other adults responsible for their health and welfare. Yet less than 10 per cent of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS receive public support or services.

“Nearly 25 years into the pandemic, help is reaching less than 10 percent of the children affected by HIV/AIDS, leaving too many children to grow up alone, grow up too fast or not grow up at all,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. “Simply put, AIDS is wreaking havoc on childhood.”

“In the past quarter-century, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 20 million people and lowered average life expectancy in the hardest-hit countries by as much as 30 years,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “A whole generation has never known a world free of HIV and AIDS, yet the magnitude of the problem dwarfs the scale of the response so far.”

Designed to alter the common belief that AIDS affects only adults, the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign will alert the world to the reality that HIV/AIDS is robbing tens of millions of children of their childhood and threatening their future prospects.

“Children in Ukraine are also under threat from the HIV/AIDS pandemic”, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine Jeremy Hartley said at the launch of the global campaign in Kiev. “In Ukraine more than 9,800 HIV-positive children have been born to HIV-positive mothers and 167 have already died because of AIDS.’

To different degrees throughout the world, HIV/AIDS is directly affecting millions of children, adolescents and young people. What is common to all regions is a lack of focus on children, both in responding to the effects of AIDS and reversing the course of the pandemic.

A recent UNICEF-supported survey in Ukraine revealed that HIV-positive women and their children face high levels of stigma in the health care system, at the workplace and in their own communities and families. “The rights of those affected by HIV/AIDS, including children, are not being ensured in Ukraine” said Jeremy Hartley, adding, “with 1.4 per cent of the population aged 15 to 49 estimated to be infected by HIV, Ukraine could push back the epidemic, but the focus must be on prevention among young people who currently account for 80 percent of those infected.”

The global campaign aims to achieve measurable progress for children based on internationally agreed goals in four areas:

  • Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV: the vast majority of the
    half-million children under the age of 15 who die globally from AIDS-related illnesses every year contract HIV through mother-to-child transmission. By 2010 the campaign aims to provide 80 percent of women in need with access to services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. Currently less than 10 per cent of women have access to these services.
  • Paediatric treatment: less than 5 per cent of HIV-positive children in need of AIDS treatment are receiving it, and only 1 per cent of children born to HIV-infected mothers have access to cotrimoxazole, a low-cost antibiotic that can nearly halve child deaths from AIDS by fighting off deadly infections. The campaign aims by 2010 to provide paediatric AIDS medicines to 80 per cent of children in need.
  • Prevention: adolescents and young people age 10-24 account for roughly half of all new HIV infections, but the vast majority of young people have no access to the information, skills and services needed to protect themselves from HIV. The campaign aims by 2010 to reduce the number of young people living with HIV by 25 per cent, in line with agreed international goals.
  • Protection and support of children affected by AIDS: by 2010, it is estimated that there will be 18 million children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Well before parents die, children – especially girls – have to take on adult tasks such as caring for the sick, looking after younger siblings, generating income to pay for health costs, or producing food. Often they must drop out of school. The campaign aims by 2010 to reach 80 per cent of children most in need of public support and services.

‘Ukraine has the potential even to exceed the global commitments and ensure that all children receive the necessary antiretroviral treatment and all women in need are secure from passing the HIV virus to their babies’, said Jeremy Hartley.

UNICEF stated that children must be at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. According to UNAIDS, US$55 billion will be needed over the next three years, US$22 billion in 2008 alone, to confront the AIDS pandemic. There is currently a funding gap of at least US$18 billion for 2005-2007. Not only does AIDS funding need to increase dramatically, but a significant portion should be specifically targeted for children affected by the disease.

The Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign will be launched across the world over the coming weeks - from Australia and New Zealand, to Kenya and Senegal, from Paris, Dublin and London, to Geneva and The Hague - with the global kick-off event taking place at the United Nations headquarters in New York with Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other high profile guests. Prime Ministers and Presidents, young people, international celebrities, senior officials from UNICEF, UNAIDS and other campaign partners will take part in press conferences, radio shows, soccer matches, gala events and tennis tournaments to show their support and solidarity behind the Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS campaign.

For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Dmytro Konyk, UNICEF Ukraine/Kiev 380-50 357 8758, dkonyk@unicef.org

Attention broadcasters: UNICEF offers news and feature video from countries worldwide at www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

Everything you need to know about the campaign at

www.unicef.org/uniteforchildren

http://www.unicef.org/

 

 
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