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School children in Côte d'Ivoire draw a future without HIV/AIDS

ABIJIAN, 9 April 2003 - Armed with colours, creativity and hope, schoolchildren in a Afbijian neighborhood drew a future without HIV/AIDS. The contest was sponsored by the government ministries and UNICEF and designed to encourage young people to come to terms with the deadly threat of the disease.

"It can never be over-emphasized that communication remains the most effective tool for HIV/AIDS control, said UNICEF Country Representative, Georgette Aithnard. "With this cartoon-making contest for school children, UNICEF would like to underscore the critical role that the school and the very young play in the fight against HIV/AIDS" she added, speaking at the launch of the contest held in Abidjan neighborhood of Abobo, on April 8. "The more so because the full value of peer group action is yet to be fully appreciated."

Three parties are behind the communication initiative: the Ministry of Education, Ministry for HIV/AIDS Control and UNICEF. The objective is to harness the creativity of 6-11-year-olds while providing them with basic, life-saving knowledge about the HIV pandemic and make them an important conduit for disseminating these vital messages among their peers. Cartoon-making, a favourite past-time of the age group, constitutes one of the pillars of the peer group action. Some 260 children in Abidjan and 100 in Bondoukou in the north-east are involved in the cartoon project launched yesterday. The results of the pilot competition will be announced in early May.

Minister for HIV/AIDS Control, Christine Nebout-Adjobi, in her address urged the children to avoid "precocious sexual activities."

"You wouldn't die without sex, she said. "Wait to become adults first, and even then you would need to practice responsible sex ", Nebout-Adjobi continued. She praised UNICEF and the Ministry of Education for working out such a novel and creative initiative for the young.

The Minister of Education, Amani N'Guessan, thanked UNICEF for supporting the special academic year, and also revealed that one student and five teachers died each day of AIDS in the country. "Your life is expensive for Côte d'Ivoire. Be careful - AIDS has no cure," he urged the assembled school children. He invited all schools in Côte d'Ivoire to launch such a contest.

For further information please contact:.

Patricia Dailly Ajavon, Tel: Abidjan: Tel: Abidjan: 225 20208153 & 20208110




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