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For every child, end AIDS

AIDS 2006: Conflict makes girls and women even more vulnerable to HIV

© UNICEF/2006/Sackney
UNHCR Senior HIV/AIDS Technical Officer Paul Spiegel speaking at the 12 August meeting on AIDS, conflict and displacement. UNICEF Canada CEO and President Nigel Fisher is seated at left.

By Dan Thomas

TORONTO, Canada, 14 August 2006 – In times of conflict, girls and women are even more vulnerable to sexual violence, HIV and AIDS, according to experts dealing with displaced populations and refugees.

“HIV/AIDS is as much about gender violence against women and girls as it is a health problem,” UNICEF Canada CEO and President Nigel Fisher told a special one-day meeting on HIV/AIDS, conflict and displacement on Saturday. The meeting preceded the opening of AIDS 2006, the XVI International AIDS Conference, now under way in Toronto.

“We have the numbers, we have the statistics about the impact of HIV and AIDS on ordinary people, but the large numbers dull the senses,” Mr. Fisher said in his opening remarks. “Each statistic is a person – often a woman or a child – and when we think about those people it demands our attention.”

AIDS as a legacy of war

Organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department, the session brought together medical experts, aid workers and refugees from conflict zones around the world to share information and discuss HIV/AIDS interventions in emergency settings.

© UNICEF/2006/Sackney
Rwandan singer Corneille has joined the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS global campaign.

UNHCR’s Senior HIV/AIDS Technical Officer, Paul Spiegel, urged delegates not only to share information and knowledge but also try to chart the future impact of the pandemic on populations affected by conflict and displacement.

According to UNICEF and UNHCR documents, the relationship between humanitarian crises and HIV/AIDS is somewhat ambiguous. With rape being used as a weapon of war, HIV infection goes up. On the other hand, conflict can sometimes lead to the isolation and immobilization of communities, which can lead to lower rates of infection.

Children at the forefront

The meeting participants also heard from Noe Sebisaba, the first known refugee in Africa to openly declare his HIV status, and the Rwandan rhythm-and-blues singer Corneille, who has joined UNICEF’s global campaign, UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS, as a Goodwill Ambassador.

The global campaign was launched by UNAIDS and UNICEF at the United Nations on October 25, 2005, to bring children under 18 to the forefront of the fight against AIDS. Since then, the campaign has launched in more than 45 countries, with a launch in Canada expected soon.

Closing the session, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah demanded action on behalf of children and urged all parties to work together to improve the world’s response to the pandemic.

AIDS 2006 in Toronto, Canada 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.




12 August 2006:
UNICEF Canada President and CEO Nigel Fisher says AIDS 2006 is an opportunity to mobilize Canadians in the fight against the pandemic.
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