Ethiopian Youth, UNICEF Launch Nation’s First HIV/AIDS Forum for Teenagers
Ethiopian youth, with the sponsorship of UNICEF, on Thursday launched the nation's first HIV/AIDS forum for teenagers, U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks/AllAfrica.com reports. The one-day forum, which included talks by HIV-positive individuals, teenagers orphaned by AIDS and Dr. Bulti Gutema, head of the child, youth and family welfare department of the Ethiopian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, drew approximately 50 teenagers from 15 different schools. "We wanted to give young people a venue where they can discuss the problems that they face among themselves and to come up with solutions to these problems," 17-year-old Eleni Muluneh, one of the forum's organizers, said. Gutema said that including youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS was "vital" because they are "the future dynamo of the economy" and HIV/AIDS is "the major social evil" facing young people in Ethiopia today. Event organizers hope to hold similar forums on a regular basis and to draft a "10-point recommendation and action plan" to be used to fight HIV/AIDS in the country (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 10/17).
UNICEF Targets Youth in Southern Africa
In related news, UNICEF has decided to make children under age 12 in Southern Africa the "priority targets" for HIV/AIDS education, Agence France-Presse reports. UNICEF plans to invest much of its resources in Southern African schools where children can receive HIV/AIDS education as well as health care resources. Sharad Sapra, UNICEF's Southern Africa coordinator, said that young children, who are one of the two age groups least affected by HIV/AIDS, are the "window of hope" in the fight to break the cycle of HIV infection in the area. Although relatively few young children are HIV-positive, HIV/AIDS has orphaned four million children in the region and more will be orphaned. "By bringing these kids into school, you not only save them from sexual exploitation and other things, you are also preparing your next work force," Sapra said (Agence France-Presse, 10/17).