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In video shorts, young Ukrainians tell their stories about HIV and AIDS

By Veronika Vashchenko

KIEV, Ukraine, 9 August 2010 – Fifteen children 12 to 18 years of age from across Ukraine recently gathered in the capital, Kiev, to participate in an innovative video workshop.

VIDEO: Watch 'Heavy Baggage', a video about HIV, stigma and young people, produced by Anna Topal, 16, at a UNICEF-supported OneMinutesJr. workshop in Ukraine.


Supported by UNICEF and its non-governmental partner, the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, the ‘OneMinutesJr.’ video workshop invited young people affected by HIV and AIDS to tell their stories by producing short films on the topic. 

New face of HIV

HIV is spreading faster in Eastern Europe and Central Asia than anywhere else in the world, and adolescents and young people account for a large percentage of new infections in the region.

In Europe, Ukraine is the country worst affected by the virus. An estimated 440,000 people aged 15 to 49 are living with HIV and AIDS here – representing about 1.63 per cent of the adult population.

While intravenous drug use is still driving the spread of HIV in Ukraine, the disease is now spreading rapidly among the broader young population. The number of pregnant women who are HIV-positive in Ukraine is increasing by an estimated 20 to 30 per cent each year. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been born to HIV-positive mothers; many have contracted the virus or are too young to have their status confirmed.

© UNICEF/2010/Schuepp
A participant checks the video screen on his camera during the UNICEF-supported OneMinutesJr. video workshop in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Decisive moment

The recent sharp increase in infections outside vulnerable groups, and in young women in particular, suggests that the coming years will be decisive for addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine.

Today, social stigma and discrimination still surround the issue. Public health services are frequently inadequate, contributing to the social exclusion of the most at-risk adolescents and young people affected by HIV.

Based on current trends, experts believe that more emphasis needs to be placed on prevention among the most at-risk adolescents and children born to HIV-positive mothers. The quality of existing treatment systems must be increased as well, along with the capacity of caregivers providing treatment and support for those already affected by HIV and AIDS.

Young people speak out

UNICEF operates the OneMinutesJr. project in partnership with the One Minutes Foundation and the European Cultural Foundation. The project organizes five-day film workshops around the globe in which each participant learns camera skills, story development and production techniques.

These workshops help young people develop ways to express themselves and have a voice in debates about issues that affect their lives.

Many of the children taking part in the recent video workshop in Ukraine are living with HIV or have HIV-positive friends or family members, and the stories they told were deeply felt. Each participant produced a 60-second film highlighting the impact of HIV and AIDS on his or her life. The 15 films, once produced, will be used by UNICEF to raise awareness about challenges faced by young people in Ukraine. They will also be shown at a national AIDS conference in Kiev in December.

© UNICEF/2010/Schuepp
During a video workshop in Kiev, Ukraine, two young people work on their films highlighting how HIV and AIDS have affected their lives.

Some of the films were shown at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, which took place last month in Vienna, Austria. Over 25,000 delegates attended the conference, including professionals working around the world in the field of AIDS prevention and treatment, people living with HIV, health policy-makers and others committed to ending the pandemic.

Before this audience, the one-minute videos became an important tool to ensure that the views of young people were part of the conference’s consultative and decision-making processes.

Protecting children’s rights

The theme of the 2010 International AIDS Conference, ‘Rights Here, Right Now,’ emphasized the rights and needs of those most vulnerable to, and affected by, HIV and AIDS – including children. It also provided an opportunity to highlight the critical connection between human rights and HIV.

All children have a right to treatment, prevention and protection from HIV and AIDS. Children’s participation in the planning and delivery of treatment services is essential to ensuring that programmes are tailored to their needs. The Convention on the Rights of the Child holds governments accountable for the delivery of public health services to children and families affected by HIV and AIDS, including young people living with HIV.

During the conference, UNICEF launched a new report on social exclusion in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The report outlined the context and nature of the epidemic in the region, as well as regional innovations that are relevant for the global HIV constituency.



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