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Hundreds of children convene for Caribbean Summit on HIV/AIDS

BARBADOS, 21 March 2004 – Hundreds of children, ages 10-16, converged for a regional children’s summit on HIV/AIDS for the signing of two cornerstone declarations, the Caribbean Youth Declaration on HIV/AIDS and Commitment of Governments.  Delegates included children who are HIV positive, or who are otherwise affected by the impact of the virus.  The two day summit was hosted by the Government of Barbados, under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Transformation in collaboration with UNICEF’s Caribbean Area Office.  The summit was the first of its kind to be held in the Caribbean.

AIDS is becoming the leading cause of death among 15-44 year olds in the English and Dutch speaking Caribbean. An estimated 2.3 per cent of the Caribbean population is living with HIV/AIDS.  Of the 60,000 individuals who became infected in the region in 2000, half were young people between the age of 10 to 25. 

The youth drafting committee, nominated by their peers, discussed the articles of the declaration until consensus was reached.  A key aspect of the declaration, and an overriding theme of the summit, called on Caribbean governments “to increase access of youth to confidential and high quality youth friendly services around sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.”  In addition, young people gave innovative solutions to increased access to information and services including “mobile health clinics in communities where youth cannot easily access quality, confidential services” and the use of interactive technologies to educate young people about HIV/AIDS.

Ministers were also quick to respond to the demands of the young people in the “Yes Minister” session, vowing to “support young people in their fight to end stigma and discrimination faced by those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, and to empower them to make positive choices for their health and well being.” They also pledged to work more earnestly in their efforts to strengthen legislative and social measures against the abuse and exploitation of children, including incest.

For more information, please contact:

Heather Stewart, UNICEF Caribbean Area Office, 246-467-6000

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