Regional Consultation on Children and AIDS Calls for Urgent Action to Put Children on the HIV/AIDS Agenda
24th March, Hanoi – More than 300 delegates concluded the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Children and HIV/AIDS with a strong endorsement of a declaration outlining specific steps to increase and expand prevention, care, treatment and support.
The “Hanoi Call to Action” expressed serious concern over the complex and far-reaching impact HIV and AIDS has had on children, including childhood HIV infection, the death of parents and other caregivers, deepening poverty and the pervasive stigma and discrimination that has caused immense suffering for children in the region.
“This consultation provided a unique forum for sharing of experiences and building a common front to prevent another generation of children affected by HIV and AIDS in the region“ said Madam Le Thi Thu, Minister and Chairperson of the Vietnam Commission of Population, Family and Children.
The Government of Vietnam is honored to have hosted this gathering and we now urge all governments in the region to work to translate the Hanoi Call to Action into tangible results for children, she said.
The document acknowledged that the regional response to children who are vulnerable to, infected and affected by HIV/AIDS has to date been inadequate, and called for accelerated efforts to fulfill global commitments to children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS – an essential step towards meeting the millennium development goals.
The Hanoi Call to Action underscored the pressing need for all countries in the region to undertake comprehensive assessments on situation of children affected by HIV and AIDS to guide efforts to plan, strengthen and scale up their responses. Currently available information on the numbers and circumstances of children affected by HIV/AIDS is still extremely limited in most of the region, hampering an effective response.
The document also emphasized the importance of reducing HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, financial barriers and other obstacles so that children can access services, such as basic education and health.
Among other key areas of action highlighted by the document were:
- assessments of existing legislation, policies and guidelines to protect, support and care for children vulnerable to, infected and affected by HIV/AIDS;
- the development of country-specific targets and action plans to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment and care for children and their families;
- increased resource mobilization, improved resource allocation and utilization to meet the needs of the region’s children;
- establishment of national multi-sectoral mechanisms that focus on child welfare and development, and help to coordinate a scaled-up response;
- expanded efforts to ensure that all children are protected, and are provided with family environments, with institutional care used only as a last resort;
- national monitoring of the situation of children vulnerable to, infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and of progress made in expanding the response; and
- strengthened regional cooperation on networking, information sharing and research.
The delegates made a strong appeal for the Hanoi Call to Action to be taken seriously at the highest level of political decision-making. As a first step, they called for it to be endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the forthcoming Association of South East Asian Nations meeting in Manila, Philippines.
The under-18 delegates who traveled from throughout the region to actively participate in the Consultation said that talk was no longer acceptable and that it was now time for action. Young people should play a greater role in the HIV/AIDS response as it was their future at stake, they said.
The three-day gathering in Hanoi provided a unique platform to ensure that children are not missing from national “roadmaps” to achieve universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services by 2010.
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Hanoi call to Action endorsed by the meeting
Under 18 Delagates delivering their closing statement
Mme Le Thi Thu, Minister, Chair Person of the Commission for Population, Family and Children & Anupama, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and The Pacific at the closing ceremony