May 10, 2002
"The tools we need to protect the world's children are well-known," Dr Piot told an audience of Heads of State, ministers, and government delegates. "But too few of these tools are being applied to mobilize young people into action.
Every day, 6,000 young people 15 to 24 years of age and 2,000 children under 15 are infected with HIV. Over 13 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, and 1,600 children die of AIDS daily. Children and adolescents under 18 represent around 10 per cent of the global total of 40 million people living with HIV.
Dr Piot challenged the General Assembly to live up to the commitments made at the Millennium Summit in 2000, the UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, and this week's Special Session on Children. At these meetings, the world's leaders have agreed on targets for action against HIV/AIDS, including a pledge to reduce youth HIV prevalence in the hardest-hit countries by 25% by 2005, and, globally, by 2010.
"These targets are empty gestures unless we use them as an instrument of accountability," said Dr Piot. "All share a single vision of a world where the HIV epidemic is in decline, where fewer young people are infected with HIV, where HIV transmission from mother to child is halved, where orphans are supported, and where we have the resources necessary for the AIDS fight."
Immediate action on several fronts could quickly make an impact in preventing HIV among children and young people. Prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes, which currently reach less than 5% of women in sub-Saharan Africa, must be scaled up worldwide. Today, we know that a simple drug regimen can help dramatically lower mother-to-child infections during birth. Children made orphaned by AIDS need the help of their governments and communities to stay in school, feed themselves adequately, and get involved in income-generating activities. And youth HIV prevention programmes must be greatly expanded, must overcome taboos and stigma, and give young people the skills for responsible and safe sexual behaviour and access to the means to protect themselves.
Dr Piot also called on nations to use the Convention of the Rights of the Child, an international treaty to protect and ensure children's rights, as a tool to combat AIDS. The Convention affirms the rights of children to the highest standards of health, education, health information, protection from stigma, and protection from exploitation.
For more information, please contact Anne Winter, UNAIDS, Geneva, (+41 22) 791 4577, Dominique de Santis, UNAIDS, Geneva, (+41 22) 791 4509 or Andrew Shih, UNAIDS, New York, (+ 1 212) 584 5024. You may also visit the UNAIDS Website for more information about the programme (http://www.unaids.org).