Feature story

Securing the future – advocating for children

12 April 2007

According to latest estimations, every day there are nearly 1,800
new HIV infections and 1,400 deaths of AIDS-related illnesses
amongst children under 15. Photo credit: UNAIDS/S.Noorani.

Across the world, significant progress is being made in the response to AIDS – political and financial commitment is higher than ever before and in more and more countries effective HIV prevention and treatment programmes are being made more widely available.

But all too often, children are still missing out. Despite the beginnings of progress, children still remain largely absent from national and international political responses to the AIDS pandemic.

According to latest estimations, every day there are nearly 1,800 new HIV infections in children under 15 and more than 6,000 young people aged 15–24 are newly infected with HIV. And every day 1,400 children under 15 die of AIDS-related illnesses.

In response to the urgent need to step up action for children and young people, the UNAIDS Secretariat and cosponsor UNICEF recently joined a group of 40 advocates and activists representing national and global organizations, campaigns, networks, and coalitions in Brussels, Belgium, to define a platform for joint advocacy towards the goal of achieving the first-ever “AIDS Free Generation”. Bringing together perspectives from around the world—and from the grassroots to the global arena—the group shared a deep concern that the lives, rights, and potential of millions of the world’s children are being severely eroded by the devastating impact of HIV.

Access to free, safe, comprehensive and quality basic education
for all children will be key to moving towards an "AIDS-free
generation". Photo credit: UNAIDS/L.Taylor

Over the course of three days, the group worked together to define a framework for political change and mobilization for the interests of children in a world living with HIV. Education, HIV prevention, treatment, social protection and financing were identified as five necessary components of the platform for effective advocacy around children and HIV.

On education, the group outlined the need to advocate for access to free, safe, comprehensive and quality basic education for all children, paying particular attention to the needs of girls, and ensuring that schools can play an effective role in HIV prevention and the protection and care of children in AIDS-affected societies.

To prevent new infections among young people and children, the group stressed the urgent and rapid need to advocate for the increase of youth and child-specific HIV prevention programmes, with a focus on ensuring access to comprehensive sexual education, empowering girls, and promoting gender equality.

Advocacy will be key to help ensure that funds are utilized
effectively to reach the children and young people most in need.
Photo credit: UNAIDS/L.Alyanak.

A comprehensive, family-centered approach to care and treatment, and the provision of affordable medicines, diagnostics and health services were underlined as central to the goal of preventing HIV infection in children and ensuring treatment of all children living with HIV.

To move towards comprehensive social protection for AIDS-affected and other vulnerable children, the group stressed that advocacy should focus on preventing stigma and discrimination, providing families and communities with the resources needed to protect children’s well-being, and ensuring access to essential services and care for all orphans and vulnerable children.

For all programmes and action focused on children and young people, the group underlined the fundamental need for full and sustainable financing. Advocacy will be key to help ensure specific funding allocations within national and international development and AIDS budgets and to help ensure that funds are utilized effectively to reach the children and young people most in need.

Underlined as central to all advocacy action towards an ‘AIDS Free generation’ was the active involvement of young people themselves, to build wider alliances, and to inspire others.

The active involvement of young people is critical for all
advocacy action towards an ‘AIDS Free generation’.
Photo credit: UNAIDS/L.Taylor

“Participants in the Summit were engaged, energized, and excited to advocate for an AIDS Free generation,” said Jennifer Delaney, Executive Director of the Global Action for Children. “This was the first step in engaging advocates, governments, the public sector and civil society in realizing this critical goal."

The advocacy group is now developing a cohesive strategy on the five main action areas, which forms the basis for a social movement to better support children affected by HIV. The strategy will include political actions which can be implemented at the national, regional and international levels.

“We are all committed to work with urgency, courage and determination to transform these goals into a new reality for and with children and young people. Future generations must be free of AIDS and spared of its devastating impacts,” said UNAIDS Director of Communication and External Relations, As Sy.


Download - Children and AIDS: Stocktaking report (2Mb, pdf)
Visit "Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS" Web site

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