Feature story

Global Partners Forum on children affected by HIV: Time to turn commitments into action

03 June 2011

A version of this story is also published at www.unicef.org

Charles Aheebwa at home with his two months old sister Kaseo. Mugamba, Uganda.
Credit: UNICEF/Tadej Znidarcic

Global efforts to improve the lives of children affected by HIV are increasing but still fall short of the growing needs of millions. An estimated 16.6 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illness, the vast majority in sub-Saharan Africa.  

This year’s Global Partners Forum on children affected by AIDS brings together 100 high level representatives from governments, civil society, donors, international organizations and academic institutions in an effort to promote evidence-based approaches to improve the lives of children affected by HIV. Under the heading Taking Evidence to Impact, the event, starting 3 June in New York, is jointly hosted by UNICEF, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and UNAIDS.

Keeping mothers and children safe from HIV

Efforts to prevent new HIV infections among children child are critical and can serve as an entry point for care and support for the whole family, particularly through better integration of couples testing and counselling; HIV treatment, care and support; and linkages with HIV testing and treatment within child health services.

“Every mother, father and child should have access to comprehensive health care which includes HIV prevention and treatment,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS who will participate in the forum. “Parents should be given the chance to protect their children from HIV and access life-saving antiretroviral medicine for their own health.”

Enormous challenges

Many children affected by HIV continue to face enormous challenges, including the burden of care for sick relatives, trauma from the loss of parents, economic distress and high health costs. There can also be a heightened risk of early sexual debut and abuse, which can make children—particularly girls—more susceptible to HIV infection.

Every mother, father and child should have access to comprehensive health care which includes HIV prevention and treatment

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

“These children have already experienced the tragedy of losing a parent or a loved one to AIDS only to be subjected to stigma, discrimination and exclusion from school and social services,” says Dr Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, “To help these children reach their full potential, we urgently need to invest in national social protection programmes that fight poverty and stigma, and which address the special needs of HIV-affected families.”

Ambassador Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, agrees that targeted investments are needed to improve the lives of children affected by the epidemic. “The U.S. Government is the largest supporter of programs targeting orphans and vulnerable children, and we remain firm in our commitment. Moving forward, we have a shared responsibility to make smart investments that will ultimately ensure a positive future for children affected by HIV/AIDS.”

The two-day forum will review:

  • Lessons learned at country level to support children affected by HIV and their families;
  • Mechanisms that protect such children from marginalization and discrimination, and increase their access to key social services;
  • The importance of child sensitive social protection and strengthening social welfare systems for increasing access to HIV prevention, treatment and care services;
  • Increasing the impact of investments and achieve better results for those in greatest need.

The recommendations from the Global Partners Forum will be reflected in discussions during the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS in New York from 8-10 June 2011.

Global Partners Forum

The Global Partners Forum was first established in 2003 to give momentum to fulfilling global commitments for children affected by AIDS laid out in the United Nations General Assembly 2001 Declaration of Commitments on HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Development Goals.