Challenging HIV and AIDS

AIDS in Malaysia

Child rights & AIDS

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Child rights & AIDS

© UNICEF 2007/Malaysia/Steve Nettleton
Malaysian children finish their schoolwork at a special home for children affected by HIV and AIDS.

The effects of HIV and AIDS are so far-reaching that many of the rights in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are relevant.

The four guiding principles of the Convention:

1. Survival, development and protection
According to article 6 of the CRC, governments must do everything they can to ensure the survival and development of children and young people. This would include making sure they have the knowledge and skills needed to protect themselves and others from HIV, as well as appropriate treatment, counselling and care.

2. Non-discrimination
Article 2 says that the rights of children should be protected without regard of their “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status”, and that would include being HIV-positive. But because of ignorance, fear and prejudice, children whose parents are infected with HIV, whether or not they are themselves infected with the virus, are often refused access to education, health or social services, and are excluded from community life. Sometimes HIV-positive children are even abandoned by their families, communities and societies.

What's more, discrimination against people who actually have HIV is not the only kind of discrimination that is relevant. In many societies, gender discrimination places girls at a higher risk than boys of becoming infected with HIV. There are various reasons for this. Girls are less likely to get an education than boys, making it less likely they will know how to protect themselves from infection. Even if girls are in school, traditional attitudes may mean they are not taught about sex or diseases such as AIDS which are mainly spread by sex. Also, girls are more likely to be pressured into sex and less likely to be able to control with whom, when and how they have sex.

3. The best interests of the child
Putting children's interests first (article 3) is also relevant to HIV and AIDS. In many countries, HIV-related services such as HIV testing, counselling, treatment and care have until now been designed primarily for adults, and so may not be particularly welcoming or accessible to young people. For example, they may lack information relevant to sexually active youth, they may not have specially trained health-care provider who know how to help and talk to young people, or they may require parents' or guardians' permission. As a result, young people may not use these services, which makes it harder for them to get the information they need to keep themselves safe and healthy.

4. Participation
Children's right to express their views and have them taken into account (article 12) is also relevant. Children and young people have the right to help raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, to speak out about its impact on their lives, and to participate in the development of HIV and AIDS policies and programs.

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