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East Asia and the Pacific

Viet Nam: Youth workshop gives voice to children affected by HIV and AIDS

© UNICEF EAPRO/ 2005/Nguyen Viet Thanh
Thirteen young people aged 12-18 from China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Viet Nam participate in a Regional Youth Forum in Hanoi.

By Jennifer Chen

HANOI, Viet Nam, 21 March 2006 – Children and young people must be on top of the HIV and AIDS agenda in East Asia and the Pacific, said 13 youth delegates to the region’s first-ever regional consultation on children and HIV/AIDS, which begins here tomorrow. “The attitude of the governments now is to only pay attention to adults. They don’t listen to what children have to say even though we are the ones most affected,” said Lhagvasuren Boldbataat, 17, a delegate from Mongolia.

The youth delegates, aged 12-18, took part in a two-day workshop ahead of the East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Children and HIV/AIDS to share their experiences in dealing with HIV and AIDS and to agree on a common message they want to convey at the main meeting.

Many of the young people have been directly affected by HIV and AIDS, while others are active in efforts to educate their peers about the dangers of the virus. They come from China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and the host country, Viet Nam.

© UNICEF EAPRO/ 2005/Nguyen Viet Thanh
Youth delegates share their experiences with the impact of HIV/AIDS in their communities and countries, and ways to play a more active role in preventing its spread.

Ending stigma and discrimination

“Even though we are from different cultures, we as children are from one world and we have a common worry and concern,” the children wrote in a statement that they plan to read at the consultation’s opening ceremony.

In the statement, the delegates say they are attending the consultation because they want to have the opportunity to tell governments, UN agencies and international organizations to pay more attention to the needs of children affected by HIV and AIDS.

The meeting, the children add, should be a first step towards ending stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV – a problem that is still deeply entrenched in East Asia and the Pacific. They also call for universal access to antiretroviral treatment for all children.

About 31,000 children under the age of 15 are estimated to be living with HIV and AIDS in East Asia and the Pacific, with 11,000 newly infected in 2005. An estimated 450,000 children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Rates of infection are relatively low in East Asia and the Pacific, but experts warn that even an incremental rise in prevalence would result in huge numbers of new infections.



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