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East Asia and Pacific regional consultation on children and HIV/AIDS

HANOI, 24 March 2006

Today should be remembered as a historic day for children in East Asia and the Pacific. Together, we have endorsed and committed ourselves as Governments, international partners, civil society and faith based groups to the Hanoi Call to Action for Children and AIDS.

This is the first time in this region we have collectively made a commitment that map out concrete action to scale up our response to children and AIDS.

As Peter Piot said in his statement, the Hanoi Call to Action is intended to strengthen the work already under way in your countries in developing National Plans to Universal Access. Clearly, you cannot even get close to universal access without children and young people at the core. We believe that we now have a framework for action that will ensure that children are no longer invisible in this national process.

It is also imperative that the Call for Action is taken seriously at the highest level of political decision making. As a first step, we hope it will be endorsed by Heads of State and Government at the Association of South East Asian Nations at their upcoming meeting in Manila.

As the Call to Action highlights, to effectively mount our response, we need to improve our country level analysis of the situation of children and the impact of HIV so as to be better able to guide efforts to plan, strengthen and scale up our response.

As we have heard during the last three days of the Consultation, a lot of good work has already been initiated. Many countries have begun in putting together national policies for the prevention, care, support and treatment of children. There has also been a strengthening of a multi-sectoral response by different sectors to ensure a more comprehensive response.

But it is also clear from many of the discussions; there is still a lot of work to be done. Additional technical expertise, more resources and more commitment are needed to translate what we know works into a larger scale response for children.

It is clear that prevention is fundamental to our success in reversing the rising trend of infections in East Asia and Pacific. This is going to require: o better targeting of vulnerable children and young people, o enhancing the quality of the services and programmes we offer them o and ultimately tackling the problems that exacerbate their vulnerability.

As we have also heard from the young people during the Consultation, our success in scaling up children and young people requires us to actively engage them as partners in our response. We need to listen to them, involve them in the development of programmes and also take heed of their advice and experiences.

I would very much like to thank the Government of Viet Nam and especially the leadership demonstrated by Madame Le Thi Thu from the Commission for Population, Family and Children. Both her personal commitment and those of her staff are the reason this Consultation has been such a success.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the other members of the organizing committee – Save the Children, FHI, USAID, PEPFAR, WHO and UNAIDS. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, partnerships are fundamental to our success in forging a common front to stop the further spread of AIDS and mitigate its impact. I believe the network that has been built during this Consultation will be critical for our long term success.

The diversity and wide spectrum of expertise represented at this meeting demonstrates the wealth of knowledge available on HIV and AIDS in this region. I would like to thank the many people who traveled great distances to be here to share their experiences and participate in the Consultation. Special thanks go to the Under 18 Delegates for the enormous energy and passion they have demonstrated during the last three days and the important recommendations they have made.

We at UNICEF look forward to working with you all in the weeks and months ahead to ensure children are given the priority they deserve in our AIDS response.

As the Under 18 delegates have reminded us though during the last three days, talk alone is not enough. Our children and young people deserve much better from us. The Hanoi Call to Action needs collective action. I urge you all to go return back to your respective countries and communities and continue the work we have started.

Thank you.

Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific



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