World Vision welcomes the release of UNICEF’s new report titled “Blame and Banishment: The underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna this week. World Vision has been responding to HIV and AIDS in Romania since 1990, and since then has expanded throughout the region, with approaches that focus on vulnerable and affected children and youth, and engage families.
“As we work on the front lines in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, we see the extent of the risks and the toll HIV is taking on young lives, which haven’t been adequately reflected in the hard facts and statistics gathered and reported up to now.
“This report is bringing those realities to light, and our hope is that it will awaken people to action against what is now the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemic.
“People living on the margins in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are both the most vulnerable to HIV and the hardest to reach.
“Here in Vienna, we are right next door to the only region were HIV infection rates continue to rise. Because they have long been ranked as low-prevalence, many Eastern Europe and Central Asian countries have been falling under the HIV response radar, but unless higher-risk communities and groups are adequately reached, the epidemic will soon expand in a much larger way in the general population.
“Our particular concern is for children and youth, who are among the most vulnerable. They face marginalization, stigma and neglect, as well as a lack of information on how to protect themselves. Poverty, trafficking, social upheaval, lack of economic opportunities and drug addiction are among challenges fueling the region’s epidemic and putting its future at risk.”