UNITE FOR CHILDREN-- UNICEF

Press Centre 2003/09/26: Adolescent Health and Development

The United Nations supports the Ministry of National Education’s stand on HIV/AIDS

One of the most serious health problems of our age, HIV/AIDS has affected around 42 million people since it was first diagnosed.

Ankara, Turkey, 26 September -- According to UNICEF, 2,000 children under fifteen years of age and 6,000 young people between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four are being infected every day.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the number of HIV/AIDS cases officially recorded in Turkey since 1985 is 1,601. Thirty-two of the reported HIV/AIDS cases are under fourteen years old.

The UN HIV/AIDS Working Group, studying HIV/AIDS issues under UN Turkey Representation, has been closely observing the recent controversy over the school attendance of an HIV-positive child and the fears of parents that other children might be infected.

To this end, the UN Turkey Representation has found it necessary to release the following information:

  • The transmission route of the HIV virus is very clear. HIV, which causes the Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), is transmitted through direct blood contact and sexual relations. According to WHO, simply sharing the same environment with an HIV-positive person does not present a risk of infection with HIV/AIDS.
  • HIV/AIDS is not transmitted by sharing the same room, the same desk or the same corridor with an HIV carrier -- nor is it transmitted by normal social interaction such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
  • There is no medical or scientific proof for isolating an HIV-positive person or for denying that person access to school or the workplace -- such measures may in fact cause irreparable psychological damage to the infected individual, as well as his or her friends and colleagues.
  • HIV/AIDS has a very similar transmission route to more common infections such as Hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis is prevalent in up to 8% of the Turkish population so the risk of being infected by the hepatitis virus through attending the same school or working in the same office would be much higher for instance.
  • On the other hand, special care should be given to the issue of openly revealing the identity of HIV-positive individuals. Identification of such individuals is tantamount to marking them out for discrimination and it is a clear infringement of universally accepted principles of human rights, children’s rights and patients’ rights. Such actions could cause irreparable damage and could harm the overall fight against the spread of the disease.

By supporting the attendance of an HIV-positive child in the same class with other students, the Ministry of Education (MONE) has demonstrated a correct and enlightened attitude to the issue and this approach is endorsed by the United Nations System both in Turkey and worldwide.

For further information, please contact:

Canan Sargın, UNICEF Turkey
Health Programme Officer,
+90 (0)312 454 10 04

Sumru Kutlu, UNICEF Turkey,
Senior Programme Assistant, Health and Nutrition,
+90 (0)312 454 10 05

Mehmet Kontaş,
HIV/AIDS UN Focal Point, Ankara:
+90 (0) 312 454 11 39

Kadri Özen, UNDP, Ankara,
Communications Officer:
+90 (0) 312 454 11 06 or +90 (0) 532 742 19 88

Read Understanding AIDS in the Winter 2003 issue of Say Yes. See Programmes 2001-2005 information about UNICEF Turkey’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme for Young People in the Programmes Section.

Read our factsheet A Word About AIDS online or download the print-ready version in pdf format. [PDF 50KB]

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