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On World AIDS Day, faith-based leaders show solidarity with HIV-affected youth in Brazil

© UNICEF Brazil/2007
A large red ribbon, the internationally recognized symbol of solidarity for those living with HIV and AIDS, was placed in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue to mark World AIDS Day in Rio de Janeiro.

By Alexandre Amorim and Kent Page

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, 4 December 2007 – The theme of World AIDS Day, 1 December, in Brazil this year – ‘Qual a sua atitude?’ (‘What’s your attitude?’) – was chosen to help mobilize children, adolescents and all of Brazilian society for positive action on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

While a series of important events took place throughout the country, perhaps the most visible activity occurred at the world-famous statue of ‘Cristo Redentor’ (Christ the Redeemer), which overlooks all of Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado Mountain.

A massive red ribbon – approximately 10 metres high – was placed at the base of the statue to commemorate World AIDS Day in Brazil. The red ribbon is known around the world as the symbol of solidarity with those living with HIV and AIDS.

© UNICEF Brazil/2007
UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg and Representative in Brazil Marie-Pierre Poirier join young participants at the World AIDS Day solidarity event.

A gathering of faiths

The UNICEF-supported event included an ecumenical ceremony involving various faith-based leaders, including Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, as well as representatives of African and Brazilian indigenous-based faiths. All were united in a ceremony led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Dom Eusébio Oscar Scheid.

In addition, the event featured the participation of adolescents living with HIV and working to prevent the spread of AIDS – including one young person living with HIV who stated: “We used to hide to die, but now we are going out in the open to live!”

The comment signalled the positive change that is evident in Brazil as the fight against HIV/AIDS moves towards universal prevention, treatment and care.

As reported in the UNAIDS 2007 AIDS epidemic update, Brazil is the first developing country to achieve universal access to HIV treatment via its national health-care system. Currently more than 180,000 people have access to free treatment provided through government financing, according to the national AIDS programme.

UNICEF represented

The young people at the World AIDS Day ceremony in Rio de Janeiro were joined by representatives of the federal and state governments, civil society and UN agencies, including UNICEF and the UN Population Fund, as well as the Pan American Health Organization and the UNAIDS Secretariat.

On hand from UNICEF at this high-profile event were UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg, and its Representative in Brazil, Marie-Pierre Poirier. The ceremony also featured singing by a local children’s choir.



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