Regional countries pledge stronger response to children and HIV/AIDS

Governments, civil societies and international partners in East Asia and the Pacific pledged here Friday to strengthen prevention, treatment, care and support regarding children vulnerable to, infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Representatives from 19 countries, including China, Malaysia, Laos and Papua New Guinea, and some 30 international agencies like the UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) and the World Health Organization, adopted the Hanoi Call to Action for Children and HIV/AIDS in East Asia and the Pacific region at the end of a regional meeting on the issue held here from March 22-24 in Hanoi capital.

"This is the first time in this region to have collectively made a commitment to map out concrete action to scale up our response to children and AIDS ... The Call to Action is taken seriously at the highest level of political decision making," UNICEF regional director Anupama Rao Singh said in her closing remarks.

Under the Call to Action, governments, civil societies and international partners in East Asia and the Pacific pledged to conduct country-level analysis of the situation of children and HIV/AIDS; assess and improve existing legal documents, policies and guidelines for the protection, support and care of children; and developing country-specific targets and locally defined action plans for achieving universal access to primary HIV prevention.

They called for increased resource mobilization and improved resource allocation and utilization to close the gap between what is currently available and what is needed for an adequate response to children; establishment of national-level multi-sectoral mechanisms that focus on child welfare and development; and reduction of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination, financial barriers and other obstacles to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including an uninterrupted basis education.

They also appealed for expanded efforts to ensure that all children are effectively protected and provided with the most family-like care environment; national monitoring of the situation of the children; and enhanced coordination in regional and international cooperation on networking, information sharing and research to scale up the response.

During the three-day meeting entitled East Asia and Pacific Regional Consultation on Children and HIV/AIDS, nearly 300 delegates, mainly government officials, health experts, activists and representatives from international agencies also undertook a critical review of the status of the children in the region.

According to estimation of international health organizations, by the end of 2005, throughout East Asia and the Pacific, 31,000 children aged under 15 were living with HIV/AIDS, nearly 11,000 of whom were newly infected in the year, the UNICEF said.

Millions more children and young people in the region are at high risk of HIV infection or suffer from stigma and discrimination as a result of their association with a person living with HIV/AIDS or an affected family.

By late 2005, an estimated 450,000 children in East Asia and the Pacific had lost one or both parents to AIDS, while hundreds of thousands more were living with a chronically ill or dying parents, said the UNICEF.

The consultation was jointly organized by the Vietnamese Commission for Population, Family and Children, Family Health International, Save the Children, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, UNICEF, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the World Health Organization.

Source: Xinhua



People's Daily Online --- http://english.people.com.cn/