UNICEF Executive Director Discusses HIV/AIDS, Upcoming U.N. Special Session on Children on NPR’s ‘Diane Rehm Show’UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy yesterday discussed the agency's efforts to help children affected by HIV/AIDS and the upcoming U.N. General Assembly Special Session on Children on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show." Bellamy said that UNICEF has "been designated within the U.N. to basically take the lead" -- but does not work alone -- on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission, adding that the agency is also "very active" in helping AIDS orphans. Addressing South Africa's recent policy shift to no longer oppose the use of antiretroviral drugs to treat rape survivors and possibly provide nevirapine through the public health system to HIV-positive pregnant women, Bellamy said that it is "really important to acknowledge" the "energy and commitment" South African President Thabo Mbeki has shown on HIV/AIDS in recent weeks. She also mentioned that former South African President Nelson Mandela will attend the special session from May 8-10.
'Conspiracy of Silence'
When asked by Rehm if children and teenagers "accept and understand that their behavior could continue" the problem of HIV/AIDS, Bellamy said that she thinks "they're beginning to," as the "conspiracy of silence" surrounding the virus has been "cracked" recently in many countries. "AIDS used to be parked off in the Ministry of Health, nobody talked about it ... but now at least you have leadership from some of the leaders in Africa and other parts of the world," she said, adding that support "from the top of the country all the way through the country, the private sector and the government" is also key to spreading HIV prevention messages. However, Bellamy added that some countries are "still very reluctant" to address the epidemic, while some countries "acknowledge" the existence of AIDS but "say it is just those terrible people, the truck drivers or the prostitutes." She concluded, "As long as you continue to make it a shame disease, then you won't have the mobilization of society" (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," NPR, 5/1). The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online.