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#1256: EVERYONE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILDREN ORPHANED BY AIDS, SAYS HAITI'S FIRST LADY. (fwd)
EVERYONE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CHILDREN ORPHANED BY AIDS, SAYS HAITI'S FIRST
New York, 1 December 1999, Panos/CECOSIDA. As the sole representative of the
Caribbean and Latin America, Mrs. Geri Benoit Preval, First Lady of the
Republic of Haiti, made a powerful appeal at the United Nations on behalf of
the children orphaned by AIDS. She spoke at a panel on "Child Care, Child
Welfare and Clinical Issues" on the occasion of World AIDS Day at the United
Nations in New York, which featured a special symposium on the children
orphaned by AIDS.
"In spite of all the progress achieved in the 20th century in the areas of
children's rights, the welfare of children remains a constant subject of
concern," Mrs. Preval said. "They are usually the first victims of natural
disasters, civil wars and political unrest. They also carry the most heavy
load of the AIDS epidemic."
After sub-saharan Africa, the Caribbean is the region hardest hit by the
disease. Current statistics for Haiti indicate an infection rate of 11% in
urban areas, 5.3% in rural areas and 7.3% nationwide, said Mrs. Preval.
Haiti's population is very young: 15% are less than 5 years old, 40% less
than 15, and 61% less than 24. As of this year 150,000 children have lost
one or both parents to AIDS and over the next three years 30% of Haitian
children will be born to HIV positive mothers, according to projections.
As elsewhere, in Haiti children are being left behind, not only by their
parents, but also by society. "A true vicious circle exists, of an
increasing mortality rate, prostitution of youngsters, teen-age pregnancy,
sexual abuse, extension of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), violence and
homelessness among children," Haiti's First Lady commented.
She gave examples of some NGOs in Haiti which provide care in these areas.
She said also that a "Network of persons affected by AIDS" is being created,
as well as an association promoting the involvement of the media, the Group
for Communication on AIDS (CECOSIDA).
Mrs. Preval emphasized that the government is also fully engaged in the
struggle against AIDS. Since 1995, the Ministry of Health has included the
fight against AIDS in its reproductive health programs. A pilot program of
free drug distribution for STD treatment is underway. Several of the planned
Community Health Units under the Ministry of Health already have operational
plans for fighting infant and maternal mortality from AIDS.
"The fight must be multi-sectorial and must include besides the Ministry of
Health, the education sector, the justice system, the Ministries of Social
Affairs, and of Women. We must not forget that the fate of the children left
behind rests on all of us," the First Lady said.
(Panos/CECOSIDA/Jan Voordouw/1 December 1999)
This article is on the web at: http://www.panosinst.org