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UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visits China

© UNICEF China /2005/Mingfang
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman meets girls who are students at Minle mosque, Yinchuan, China.

By Charles Rycroft

YINCHUAN, 26 August 2005 - UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is in China this week to address an event commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

Also on Ms. Veneman’s itinerary have been visits to a mosque and schools where pupils, including girls, are being taught how to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

More than one million people in China are HIV-positive. That figure could rise to 10 million by 2010 unless effective measures are taken immediately.

At the Minle mosque and language training centre in Yinchuan, Ms. Veneman heard the Yimamu (religious leader) urge students not to discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS. He also explained how Islam supports behaviour which can stop the spread of the virus. The mosque is taking part in a faith-based response, supported by UNICEF, to tackling HIV/AIDS.

© UNICEF China /2005/Mingfang
High school pupils in China tell Ms. Veneman about their strategies for combating HIV/AIDS.

Ms. Veneman also spoke to the students and stressed the importance of education, particularly for girls, in empowering young people to make the right choices that can help protect them from becoming infected.
Role of youth in fighting HIV/AIDS

Later she visited a life skills class for boys and girls at a Yinchuan high school. The students, ages 13-15, discussed strategies for avoiding risky situations; these situations include going to places where they might be exposed to drug use. Some estimates indicate that around 70 per cent of HIV infections in China result from intravenous drug use.

Ms. Veneman spoke about her recent visit to Africa, where the virus has reduced life expectancy dramatically in numerous countries, and she urged the children to talk to their peers about what they had learned in school. Young people have a key role to play in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.

During her stay in China Ms. Veneman is also reviewing child survival programmes in Ningxia province and hearing about China’s National Plan of Action for Children. Special attention is being paid to the serious problem of child trafficking.

Jane O’Brien contributed to this story from New York.



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