10M Children in South Asia Affected by HIV/AIDS, Officials Say
Up to 10 million children in South Asia are affected by HIV/AIDS, officials from UNICEF's Regional Office for South Asia and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation said on Monday at a meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal, of representatives from SAARC countries, the Himalayan Times reports. According to SAARC, a small portion of the children are HIV-positive, while the vast majority are at an increased risk of contracting the virus because they have one or both parents living with the virus or have been orphaned by AIDS. Participants at the two-day regional conference on children affected by HIV/AIDS are examining the situation in the region, the Times reports. They also are working to develop common strategies to guide policies and actions to protect children affected by the disease.
Mohammad Naseer, director of the SAARC social affairs unit, said, "It is never late to act. The time has come to put children at the center of the debate." Frances Turner, deputy director of UNICEF ROSA, said that with "the loss of their childhood, education, family support and inheritance, the children are likely to face neglect, discrimination and abuse," adding, "A common approach is [a] must to ensure, protect and support their basic rights." Mahesh Maskey, president of the Nepal Health Research Council, emphasized the need for a universal approach to ensure that HIV/AIDS-affected children are included in public and community support systems. He also highlighted the need for specific measures to reduce the HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and stigma that is highly prevalent in SAARC nations, the Times reports (Himalayan Times, 5/8).