Progress slow at facing children’s needs at
Mexico City AIDS meeting
Mexico City, Aug. 8, 2008
- Lack of urgency is failing the world’s young, World Vision HIV Director says
- Are children seen as “too young to matter”?
—Gains in addressing children’s needs amid the AIDS pandemic are too slow for the millions affected, a director of World Vision International’s HIV programs initiative, said of this week’s XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.
While there were more discussions of HIV’s impact on children at this top international forum than in previous years, their number and prominence were still dwarfed by other themes, an analysis of the event showed. At the same time, children are among the hardest hit by the pandemic and its impact on them is getting worse, according to recent statistics.
“It took more than 26 years of these meetings for children’s needs to be the focus of a main session, a simple step that took a concerted effort to achieve,” said Stefan Germann, who leads HIV and AIDS program design for World Vision International, a Christian humanitarian agency that operates care and prevention programs in more than 60 countries.
“This lack of urgency is really an utter failure of the overall AIDS community. We are failing our children,” Germann said. “The big question is, are we accountable to our children? Or are they seen as too young to matter?”
Neglecting to focus more on children reflects a disturbing lack of will on the part of public health leaders and governments to take action on behalf of the most vulnerable, World Vision advocates said at the IAC, where this year’s slogan was “Universal Access Now,” emphasized the urgent need for care, treatment and HIV prevention.
Children are one of the largest population groups affected by the pandemic. Last year, children made up a larger percentage of people living with HIV than in 2001, and they are much less likely than adults to have access to life-saving treatment. New infections in children continue at more than 1,000 per day, most of which would be prevented by ensuring pregnant women get testing and treatment. Another 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related deaths, and are less likely than their peers to have adequate education, food or health care.
"Universal Access" is a misnomer unless it includes children and pregnant women,” Stuart Kean, World Vision’s HIV and AIDS policy adviser, said at the end of the conference. “Children are bearing the brunt of the world’s neglect of dealing with the global epidemic. Progress continues to lag in getting them on treatment, and services for pregnant women especially remain woefully inadequate.”
To stop these trends, World Vision is calling on governments to scale up programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus; increase access to pediatric treatment; and earmark 12 percent of AIDS funding for affected children.
“We must challenge those in the international community who would try to delay the target for universal access to the year 2015, from 2010,” said Kean. “We must do all that’s possible to make it happen in the next two years.”
For more information, or an interview with one of World Vision’s HIV and AIDS experts, contact Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz in Mexico City at +1 .202.615.2608 or +52.55.3856.5043 (local mobile).
:: More about World Vision at the International AIDS Conference
Note to editors
World Vision’s AIDS programs are in 60+ nations, many in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 90 percent of the world’s HIV-infected children live. Other regions with programs include Asia, Latin America and the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Partnering with local communities and faith leaders it works to educate about the disease, to eradicate stigma, encourage voluntary testing, train thousands of home visitors and provide care and assistance to thousands of chronically ill men, women and children.