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UNICEF at Vienna International AIDS Conference: Children and Young People in Focus at AIDS 2010 Conference

2010-07-22

VIENNA, 23 July 2010 – UNICEF experts in HIV and AIDS, gathered from over 35 countries, said that the just concluded International AIDS Conference re affirmed the critical importance of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV.  However stigma is still a major factor in keeping women and young people from accessing the services they need.

The number of children born with the virus every year is around 400,000.  AIDS 2010 made the goal of effective elimination of HIV in newborns a worldwide priority.

UNICEF makes effective elimination of Mother to Child Transmission a primary focus of its work, Executive Director Tony Lake told the conference.

“We have the evidence and we have the momentum that we need to have,” said Jimmy Kolker, chief of HIV and AIDS, UNICEF.  “The next wave of response should be shaped by reaching those hardest to reach so that coverage and follow up can be truly universal.  Mother and child health and survival depend on it.”

The success of PMTCT depends in good part on focusing on difficult and sensitive issues, such as drug use in pregnant women with HIV.

“Drug dependent women everywhere in the world face very high levels of discrimination because of their drug use and their HIV status,” said Nina Ferencic, UNICEF Senior Advisor on HIV and AIDS in the CEE/CIS region and the co-author of the recently released report “Blame and Banishment: The underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.   “This social exclusion can lead to a mother avoiding antenatal care, or arriving just before delivery so the opportunity to prevent HIV transmission to her baby is lost. So the stigma makes the cycle of addiction and HIV even worse.”

The scale of the problem is enormous, and the response is inadequate both in scale and efficiency.

Protection of children affected by AIDS, challenges to prevention of HIV among adolescents, and services for HIV-positive young people were also topics of many sessions and seminars in Vienna.

UNICEF staff presented over 35 abstracts and posters, and one the contributions, by Dr. Priscilla Akwara on defining “Who is the vulnerable child” using population data from several countries, won the prestigious ICABA/IAS award. http://www.unicef.org/aids/index_55221.html
To read more about the work of UNICEF at the conference: http://aidsmap.org

About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.