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HIV & AIDS and Children

UN leadership charts ‘a way forward’ in AIDS battle

© UNICEF/HQ06-0634/Markisz
At the 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS (left to right): UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson and Under-Secretary General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services Chen Jian.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, 31 May 2006 – The United Nations began today to take stock of the progress it has made in slowing the AIDS pandemic and to draw up its battle plan for the future.

“This meeting must chart a way forward,” UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the plenary session of the General Assembly. “It must set us firmly on course towards getting as close as possible to the universal access of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.”

The 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS is a follow-up to the world body’s 2001 Declaration of Commitment, which established specific goals for improving the global response to AIDS.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman participated in the event, leading a panel about overcoming health worker shortages and other factors that constrain universal access to AIDS treatment in developing nations. The World Health Organization’s Assistant Director General for AIDS, TB and Malaria, Anarfi Asamoa-Baah, moderated the session with Ms. Veneman.

Impact on women

The most comprehensive report ever on the pandemic shows some progress is being made. The UNAIDS 2006 ‘Report on the global AIDS epidemic’, released yesterday, says the spread of the disease is slowing globally but there are regions – such as Southern Africa and Eastern Europe – where it continues to increase.

Significant challenges lie ahead, the report says, and AIDS remains an ‘exceptional threat’.

One area of special concern is the shortfall in care to prevent mother-to-child HIV infection. The UNAIDS report says that just 9 per cent of pregnant women are covered by prevention programmes.

And AIDS continues to disproportionately affect women. Worldwide, twice as many women as men are living with HIV. In Southern Africa, about three-quarters of people with HIV and AIDS are women.

Turning the tide

“I call on African leaders sitting here to protect and promote the rights of all people and vulnerable groups, particularly women. We ask that you not fail us yet again,” said South African Khensani Mavasa, who was introduced as the first person living with AIDS to address the General Assembly.

“All of us will be deciding what commitment to make to ensure 2006 goes down in history as the moment when the world turned the tide on this pandemic once and for all,” added UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson.

Last October, UNICEF, UNAIDS and other partners launched the UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign at UN headquarters in New York to heighten global awareness about the impact of AIDS on children and their caregivers.




31 May 2006: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the opening session of the 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS.
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31 May 2006: UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman addresses the challenges facing health and social systems at the 2006 High Level Meeting on AIDS.
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