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For every child, end AIDS

‘AIDS 2006’ conference begins: Time to deliver for children

© Reuters/Moczulski
Bill Gates at the opening news conference of AIDS 2006, the XVI International AIDS conference in Toronto, Canada.

By Dan Thomas

TORONTO, Canada, 14 August 2006 – The world is doing more than ever to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS but even more needs to be done to protect the youngest and most vulnerable, delegates to the XVI International AIDS Conference were told yesterday in Toronto.

Opening the biennial conference, also known as AIDS 2006, billionaire campaigner Bill Gates and his wife Melinda said they had returned from a recent trip to Africa with a new sense of optimism but recognized that more needs to be done to prevent children and women from contracting HIV.

“Right now, one of the most widely practiced approaches to prevention is the ABC programme, for ‘Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms’. This approach has saved many lives and we should expand it. But for many at the highest risk of infection, ABC has its limits,” Mr. Gates said to thunderous applause.

“Abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls who have no choice but to marry at an early age,” he added. “Being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man.”

‘We must act now’

An estimated 24,000 delegates from some 170 countries, including more than 1,000 young people and a team of UNICEF and UN experts, have converged on Toronto for a week of meetings and discussions on how to stop the global AIDS pandemic.

Quoting UNICEF in her opening speech, the Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, told delegates that by 2010 around 18 million children will have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

“And every 15 seconds a young person is infected. The situation is dire. We must act now,” she declared.

In his opening address to the conference, UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot called for a long-term, sustained response to the global AIDS pandemic. “There is so much more to do, particularly with a view to prevention and young people,” he said.

© UNICEF/2006/Thomas
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah is filmed opening the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS booth in the AIDS 2006 Global Village.

Earlier on Sunday, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah, who is leading the UNICEF delegation to AIDS 2006, opened the UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS booth in the Global Village, a networking area for participants. Ms. Salah called on world leaders to deliver an “AIDS-free generation.”

The global UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign was launched by UNAIDS and UNICEF at the United Nations on October 25, 2005, aiming to bring children and young people to the forefront of the world’s response to AIDS.

AIDS redefines childhood

“The discussions that will take place here over the coming week are critical because, despite the magnitude of the problem, the faces of children are still largely missing in reports of the positive results that are beginning to emerge from the global fight against HIV and AIDS,” said Ms. Salah.

“A whole generation of young people today has never known a world free of HIV/AIDS,” she continued. “It is a disease that has redefined childhood, forcing many of them to grow up alone, too fast and in many cases, sadly, not at all.”

AIDS 2006 is the largest AIDS meeting ever held. The conference theme, ‘Time to Deliver’, underscores the urgency of effective HIV prevention, care and treatment as well as the need for increased accountability from individuals, governments, NGOs and UN agencies.

UNICEF delegates will spend the coming week trying to ensure that children and young people are very much a part of the global AIDS agenda.




13 August 2006:
UNICEF Correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the opening of the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.
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