"Children's Voices Largely Absent at ICAAP8" - PWN+ & World Vision
August 29, 2007 - Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India - Positive Women's Network (PWN+) and World Vision India expressed concern at the fact that the voices of children were not heard adequately at the recently concluded International Congress on AIDS in the Asia Pacific at Colombo, Sri Lanka. PWN+ is the only organization that has been started by HIV positive women and children in India. World Vision India is a Christian humanitarian organisation working to create lasting change for children, families and communities living in poverty and injustice
"The congress had so many people and no children except us. That was sad. I think when they have the next one, they should allow more children living with HIV to participate and talk about their issues. Its good if we can have more children than adults," said Saran*, one of the three children who were present at the congress. The children were part of a group that attended the conference under the auspices of World Vision India and PWN+ to participate in a satellite session co supported by UNDP on 'Listening to children's voices' on 21 August 2007.
The conference opened with the bold words of the UNAIDS regional adviser calling children the "missing faces" of the HIV epidemic. "But this was not reflected adequately in the content of the Congress," according to Bradley Thompson, World Vision National coordinator for HIV and AIDS programmes in India, "While there were a few sessions focussed on children, the involvement of children was clearly not enough."
World Vision and PWN+ co-hosted a satellite session on HIV and AIDS and its impact on children themed 'Listening to children's voices' during the congress. "The three children who spoke at the session were the only children at the whole congress," says Kausalya, President, PWN+.
At this session, the children said their biggest fear was that their HIV status would be discovered at school. The climate of stigma and discrimination makes it hard for the children to explain repeated sickness and the need to take medicines during school hours.
Said Saran, "I want to tell my friends in India not to discriminate those who are infected. Even teachers in school have got the wrong information about the spread of the virus."
"My sister has to take so many tablets and she hates it. It hurts me to see her go through that pain, and I wanted to tell people that they need to hurry up and do something to reduce dosage for children," said Vaishali*, the thirteen-year-old sister of Saran.
"The most painful moment for me was when my daughter asked me why I did not use prevention of parent to child transmission (pPTCT) protocols when she was born though PPCT services were available in the year 1996," said Padmaja, Saran's mother and also general secretary of PWN+. "Every HIV+ pregnant woman should have information about pPTCT and access the service."
"We need a concerted effort by all actors including the Government, NGOs, CBOs and Positive networks to reduce stigma and ensure universal access to services for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS," stressed Bradley Thompson.
World Vision and PWN+ are advocating strongly for universal access to pPTCT protocols for pregnant women across the country as a way to prevent HIV crossing over into the next generation. Universal access to paediatric drugs is also an urgent need.
*Names changed to protect identity
Media contact details
Joy Christina R,
World Vision India,
+91 (044) 24807064/ +91 9840798734,
"Reproduced with permission - World Vision India"
World Vision India