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HIV-infected children in South Kazakhstan to be the focus of comprehensive package

Government and UN coordinate a swift response to child deaths and HIV infection

ASTANA, 16 October 2006 - As a government investigation into health services in southern Kazakhstan continues, widespread concern at the sudden spread of HIV infection in children is being countered by swift action including access to treatment for the children and counselling for the affected families.

According to the latest figures from the Kazakh Health Ministry, 76 HIV-infected children, mostly under the age of 36 months, have been identified in the South Kazakhstan Region, and six children have died of an AIDS-related illness.

The government investigation into the cluster of new cases has still not officially established the causes, though concerns centre on the blood transfusion services and use of non-sterile injecting equipment at three hospitals in Shymkent, the region’s administrative centre where the children were receiving medical treatment prior to their infection.

Speaking to the press a few days ago, the Kazakh Health Minister, Anatoliy Dernovoy, said that the comprehensive approach to the situation in the affected region outlined by UNICEF Representative and Chair of the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS, Alexandre Zouev, would address both health and the socio-economic issues.

Responding to a recent Government request, UNICEF invited international experts on antiretroviral therapy, psychosocial counselling and public information to the region to advise the health care staff, while helping central government and local authorities to coordinate partners and facilitate the response.

At the press conference, the UNICEF Representative said that, “the protection of the rights of children and their families should guide the country’s response and the focus should be on an effective system of preventive measures. Non-discrimination and a community that is supportive of the children and families concerned is vital.”

The UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS is framing a joint plan of action to complement the government's national HIV/AIDS strategy currently under development.

The joint UN action will help the government assess the special needs of the affected population; establishing adequate medical treatment protocols; social protection measures for HIV-infected children and affected families, including psychosocial counselling and support; preventing the separation of children from families; and supporting families to ensure the psychological, emotional, physical and social development and protection of the HIV-infected children.

Together with UNAIDS and UNESCO, UNICEF will work national and local partners to design and carry out a communication strategy to fight stigma and discrimination and to promote the rights of children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. The media are important partners in combating discrimination and in changing public attitudes. Advocacy for the protection of the children and their families, as well as efforts to help create an environment for effective action, are a key element of the response.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information please contact:
Sultan Khudaibergenov, Communication Officer, UNICEF Kazakhstan: Tel +7 3172, 326 206:ext 112, skhudaibergenov@unicef.org




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