Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite - Kids, HIV/AIDS and School

Today May 15 is the day when Bloggers are Uniting for Human Rights. All sorts of organizations will be tuning in including Amnesty International and CNN to be a part of the campaign where bloggers choose to highlight human rights issues of their choice. My son is a youth ambassador for UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities) and in light of the connection and my own interest in youth related issues I am choosing to raise awareness about youth and HIV/AIDS.

It is a frightening statistic that one-quarter of the world's population living with HIV are under the age of 25. In 2005 the UNFPA's fact sheet stated that "every day an estimated 6000 youth are infected with the virus, one in every 14 minutes". Indeed it boggles the mind that now more than half of the new infections hit this demographic. I wish I had more current figures but take a look at this pie-chart for a idea of how the world's youth are affected.

In addition to the kids infected with HIV there are millions who are affected by the disease as they have been orphaned. It is terribly sad that in 2003 4 million children in sub-Saharan Africa lost both parents to AIDS.

A UNESCO report informs that the extent to which children who are infected enroll or continue to attend school once their HIV status is clear is not known. Then there are the orphans and those children whose parent(s) are infected. In all cases their attendance at school is affected. The increased medical costs, the loss of family income, the need for kids to become household leaders, the stigma of the disease all contribute to a reduction in school attendance. Without serious intervention the orphaned children are unlikely to attend school.

It is imperative that youth gain access to prevention education in addition to their wider education. The issue of this dastardly disease and how to prevent its spread must be made a part of the school curricula. While young people may already know about the disease they do not have the skills to make empowered choices.

We can all help whether it is by making a donation, raising awareness, volunteering or teaching. Let us all unite for the human right to life.

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