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The United Nations is launching a global campaign to combat the AIDS pandemic, which is threatening children as never before: Every minute a child under the age of 15 dies as a result of AIDS, and every day nearly 1,800 youngsters are newly infected with HIV.
At a prelaunch press briefing on Monday, UNICEF executive director Ann Veneman said children are the "invisible face" of a very visible disease and are missing out on the help that is going to adults to fight AIDS and help prevent its spread.
According to a new report from UNICEF and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, children under 15 account for one in six global AIDS-related deaths and one in seven new global HIV infections. An estimated 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, but fewer than 10% receive any public support.
At the official campaign launch on Tuesday, Veneman joined U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, UNICEF goodwill ambassador Roger Moore, UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot, and young people affected by AIDS. Launch events also were held in India, El Salvador, Brazil, Mozambique, Djibouti, the Netherlands, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Australia.
Veneman said the campaign to reduce HIV/AIDS among children is targeted at governments and policymakers. She urged countries to follow the example of the United States, the United Kingdom, and most recently Ireland, which have earmarked part of the funds they contribute to the global fight against AIDS to youngsters.
The campaign will focus on stopping mother-to-child HIV infections and on HIV prevention because 15- to 24-year-olds now account for half of all HIV infections. By 2010 the campaign expects to achieve a 25% drop in infections by providing education, information, and services to young people, she said. (AP)