The Missing Face of Children and AIDS: Progress on Ten Years of Commitments

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The Missing Face of Children and AIDS: Progress on Ten Years of Commitments

10 June 2011

President of Rwanda Paul Kagame speaking at The Missing Face of Children and AIDS: Progress on 10 years of Commitments held at Millennium Hotel, NYC, June 9, 2011. Credit: UNAIDS/B. Hamilton

Considerable progress has been made in putting children at the heart of the global AIDS response. Eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 has become an international priority and there has been a decrease in HIV incidence among the young.  However, the High Level Meeting on AIDS heard this week that much more still needs to be done to ensure an AIDS-free generation. 

During a side-event on 9 June called The missing face of children and AIDS: Progress on ten years of commitment, delegates explored how all children, everywhere can be assured access to good quality HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. The meeting, which brought together heads of state, ministers, international organizations and representatives of affected populations, including youth groups, was co-hosted by UNICEF, UNAIDS and the governments of Australia and Botswana. Guests included President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary-General.

The major goals of the event were to encourage national and global decision makers to follow through on their commitments to eliminate new HIV infections among children, to reflect on progress made towards global targets and to keep children central to the agenda throughout the High Level Meeting.

It also provided an opportunity to announce the continuation of the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign as a global multi-partner platform championing children’s issues in the challenge to HIV.

All children need to be a global priority, and not left to the lottery of geography

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

In his opening remarks, Dr Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director said: "We have the knowledge, we have the science and we have the power to achieve an AIDS-free generation. We can do this—and because we can, we must do it.  And I believe that together, we will do it."

Participants discussed the importance of clearly defining objectives as part of a rights-based, results-focused drive to reach all those in need. These include millions of women and children still falling through the gaps. Health indicators show that there are massive inequities based on income, geography and education. Gender disparities continue to place a greater HIV burden on young women and girls and children with disabilities often have very limited access to services and protection.

It was agreed that efforts to reach the poorest, most marginalized and least served with HIV interventions must be redoubled.

Addressing the event, Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director made an impassioned plea: "All children need to be a global priority, and not left to the lottery of geography. Unfortunately, that's what is happening."

"If we fail for children, I don't believe that we can be successful for any development agenda…If we cannot deliver for our children, if we cannot establish a society which will allow the proper redistribution of opportunity, a society in which we really deal with inequities, a society in which we really make sure that social justice will be helping us to reach those children, don't tell me that you will achieve the Millennium Development Goals, you will transform this world, you will make it better.”

Nabbumba "Princess" Nuru from Uganda who was born with HIV also addressed the assembly: "I stand here before all of you today, as a young leader in the AIDS response, to challenge you as established leaders to fully commit to the virtual elimination of mother to child transmission.”

We have the knowledge, we have the science and we have the power to achieve an AIDS-free generation. We can do this—and because we can, we must do it. And I believe that together, we will do it.

Dr Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director

“I understand many of us here in this room are parents. None of you would want your child to grow up with HIV, or you would feel really bad if your child fell sick. That is how it feels for many women in Africa, very many women all over the world, who can't have access to HIV treatment in order to prevent their babies from catching the virus," she said.

The meeting concluded on an optimistic but sober note: achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation is now within reach but only if the world sticks to the necessary commitments and takes the necessary action to make this a reality.

UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS

Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, and 10 years since the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the world has come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response at the 2011 UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on AIDS from 8–10 June 2011 in New York. Member States are expected to adopt a new Declaration that will reaffirm current commitments and commit to actions to guide and sustain the global AIDS response.