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International AIDS Conference an 'Expensive Talking Shop' Unless More Done for Children
Date:8/1/2008

- World Vision calls for action to protect, care for children impacted by

HIV and AIDS - Mexico City event a chance to spur help for millions of orphans and

vulnerable children

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- A leading humanitarian agency has today warned that the world's biggest conference on HIV and AIDS will miss the mark unless attendees come away making firm commitments to end mother-to-child transmission of the disease, increase access to pediatric treatment and extend care for affected children.

World Vision, a Christian relief and development organization with HIV and AIDS programs in more than 60 countries, says participants in the XVII International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Mexico City should put children at the focus of their discussions. Fifteen million children have been orphaned by the pandemic, and thousands are infected each week while treatment and care lag that of adults.

"This is a top forum for hearing important new scientific research and for productive, structured dialogue on the major challenges facing the global response to AIDS," said Martha Newsome, director of World Vision's HIV and AIDS Hope Initiative. "However, as is often the case with global conferences like this one, the needs of children are too low on the agenda.

"Almost 1,200 children a day under the age of 15 are newly infected with HIV - around 90 percent of those from mother-to-child transmission, which is preventable. Organizers expect 22,000 people to attend this conference, from field workers to government ministers. Imagine if each of those made reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV their personal goal?

"As a global community we should be ashamed that 9 out of every 10 HIV positive children get the virus from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, a particular tragedy because mother-child transmission can be safely stopped. Prevention services can reduce transmission risk to less than 2%, but only about 1 in 10 HIV-positive pregnant women who need ARVs get them. There's no acceptable reason to not put an end to mother-to-child transmission."

ARVs, or anti-retroviral drugs, are the medications needed by HIV-positive people to delay the onset of AIDS and significantly prolong life.

Specifically, World Vision is calling for health and government leaders to:

-- Prevent mother-to-child transmission by fully scaling up programs and

being accountable for meeting goals

-- Ensure pediatric treatment and infant testing

-- Earmark 12% of AIDS funding for children affected by HIV and AIDS

The IAC's slogan this year is "Universal Access Now," emphasizing the need for continued urgency in the worldwide response to HIV/AIDS, and for action on the part of all stakeholders.

"Without addressing the needs of children impacted by HIV and AIDS, and of those infected by mother-child transmission specifically, the IAC will sadly prove to be just another expensive talking shop to the millions who need action now," Newsome said.

Notes to editors

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit http://www.worldvision.org.

World Vision's AIDS programmes are in 60+ nations, many in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 90% of the world's HIV-infected children live. Partnering with local communities and faith leaders, it works to educate about the disease, to eradicate stigma, encourage voluntary testing, train thousands of home visitors and provide care and assistance to thousands of chronically ill men, women and children.


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SOURCE World Vision U.S.
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