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SUDAN: Campaign to focus on HIV/AIDS affected children

12/7/2005 8:31pm

KHARTOUM, 7 Dec 2005 (IRIN/PLUSNEWS) - The Sudanese National AIDS Control Programme (SNAP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other partners have launched a campaign focusing on the impact of the disease on children.

They said as many as 300,000 people under age 25 in Sudan were living with the HI virus.

"Sudan is at a general epidemic state - the disease is spread all over the population. This problem must be addressed immediately, especially now with the end of war and peace returning," said Severine Leonardi, HIV/AIDS officer for UNICEF.

The five-year global Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign has identified some countries around the world as "champion countries", including Sudan.

"Children are not only infected, they are affected. They are the missing face of AIDS. They are missing parents, missing teachers and missing treatment and care," Leonardi noted.

"Our approach will not be business as usual because the extent and the severity of the challenge of HIV/AIDS is anything but usual. The main focus of this campaign will be to inform young persons about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it," she added.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by SNAP, UNICEF and other UN agencies, a majority of young people aged 19 to 24 years in Sudan were sexually active.

However, less than 10 percent of them had a clear understanding of how to prevent HIV or knew what a condom was. The survey also found that up to 75 percent of women aged 15 to 49 were unaware that HIV could be transmitted from mother to child.

The campaign, Leonardi said, would aim to inform young Sudanese through education projects with their peer groups. It also aims to provide paediatric treatment to infected children.

"In 2006, we will ensure that free treatment for women and children begins to be available in Sudan," Leonardi said.

The campaign will aim to provide medical treatment to 80 percent of the HIV-infected children around the world by 2010.

"A whole generation has never known a world free of HIV and AIDS," Leonardi maintained. "We must put the spotlight on the millions of children whose lives have been devastated by this pandemic ... and ensure that the world act now."

Statistics indicate that 23,000 people have already died of AIDS in Sudan, leaving an estimated 60,000 AIDS orphans throughout the country. UNICEF will focus on supporting these abandoned children by promoting community support and psychological care.

Globally, an estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. However, less than 10 percent of these orphaned children made vulnerable by the disease receive public support or services.

As of 2004, 510,000 children around the world under the age of 15 had died of AIDS-related illness.

According to UNAIDS, the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Sudan among people aged 15 and above is 2.6 percent. An estimated 600,000 people are living with HIV in the country.

"It is not too drastic to say that AIDS can slow all progress in Sudan if it is not dealt with now," said UNICEF representative Ted Chaiban in a statement.

"If Sudan is to develop, we must put children first. This campaign will focus attention on how resources are allocated and used."

He added that the campaign came during a critical "window of opportunity" and would complement other development initiatives throughout the country.


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