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United Nations Launches Children’s AIDS Campaign

I’m Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Health Report.

The United Nations has launched a campaign to get countries to do more for children affected by H.I.V. and AIDS. The U.N. Children’s Fund and the U.N. AIDS program call their campaign, "Unite for Children. United Against AIDS."

AIDS resulted in three million deaths in two thousand four. One in six victims was under the age of fifteen.

But UNICEF says millions of children are affected by AIDS even if they are not infected with the virus that causes it. Many lose parents or brothers and sisters. In some cases, they are even denied schooling and health care just because of their family situation.

U.N. officials say about fifteen million children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS. Yet, they say, less than ten percent of these children receive any public support or services. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says many children are being left to grow up alone, grow up too soon or not grow up at all.

Southern Africa is home to almost ninety percent of children infected with H.I.V. But the virus is increasingly spreading among young people in Asia and eastern Europe.

About half of all new H.I.V. infections worldwide are among people age fifteen to twenty-four. UNICEF aims to reduce new infections among young people by twenty-five percent within the next five years.

Less than five percent of children with H.I.V. receive treatment now. UNICEF wants to increase that number, and also services for pregnant women to prevent infection of their babies.

UNICEF says children must be put first in the fight against AIDS. It says children are too often excluded from government policy discussions on the disease. The campaign aims to reach eighty percent of children most in need of services by two thousand ten.

The U.N. AIDS program says at least fifty-five thousand million dollars will be needed over the next three years to fight AIDS. U.N. officials say much of that money should be provided for children.

Kofi Annan, UNICEF chief Ann Veneman and the head of UNAIDS, Doctor Peter Piot, announced the campaign last week in New York.

Miz Veneman noted that in the past twenty-five years, AIDS has not only claimed more than twenty million lives. In some countries it has also lowered the average life expectancy by as much as thirty years.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Our reports are on the Web at I’m Shep O'Neal.