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UN officials in Africa Education crucial to fight HIVAIDS among young people

Composed of the executive directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) as well as Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium in her capacity as the two agencies’ Special Representative for Children and AIDS, the delegation citied Tanzania’s progress in providing free primary education, which can be a key avenue for HIV prevention.“I am convinced that education for children and young people is of great importance. More than ever it is clear that prevention is crucial because ignorance is the worst enemy of the AIDS response,” Princess Mathilde said.The mission urged Tanzanian officials to strengthen secondary education and activities for out-of-school youth as well as encourage the work of community volunteer groups.“We must do all we can to support communities…improve education and health care systems, ensure access to clean water and sanitation, as well as adequate nutrition…to strengthen the ability of communities and families to cope with HIV and AIDS,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF’s Executive Director.During the three-day visit, the UN representatives met with government officials, the donor community, children orphaned by AIDS and people living with HIV.It is estimated that HIV prevalence in Tanzania is 7 per cent of the population, or about two million people. Young people have a higher risk of HIV infection in Tanzania with half of all new infections occurring among young people aged 15 to 24, according to UNAIDS and UNICEF.The mission said that increasing the availability of quality services and sustaining the services will be key challenges for Tanzania as it begins the next phase of its AIDS response.Meanwhile, further south in Zimbabwe, UNICEF yesterday launched another youth project to fight HIV as the country grapples with the world’s fifth-highest prevalence of HIV and increasing numbers of orphans.As it launched the program, called Young People We Care, UNICEF stressed the important role that young people can play in reducing the country’s HIV rate. The project lets Zimbabwean youths work with UNICEF’s home-based care facilitators during their visits to HIV-affected households.While the care facilitators provide ill people with primary care, youths carry out household chores and provide psychosocial support to their peers who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS. There are now more than 7,000 YPWC volunteers in Zimbabwe.