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UNICEF: Follow-up to UNAIDS

Statement at the UNICEF Executive Board, on UNICEF follow-up to recommendations and decisions of the UNAIDS 35th and 36th Programme Coordinating Board meeting. Joint statement Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, delivered by Ms. Monica Svenskerud, 3 February 2016.

| Executive Board

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Thank you, Mr. President,

I am pleased to deliver this statement on behalf of our UNAIDS constituency members Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, and my own country Norway. 

Let me start by thanking UNICEF for presenting the implementation of the recommendations and decisions of the 35th and 36th UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board meetings.

We recognize the important role UNICEF plays as a co-sponsor of UNAIDS and acknowledge UNICEF’s leadership on HIV programming to end AIDS among children and adolescents by 2030. 

In relation to HIV, the challenges in the first years of life are very different from those in the teen-age years. It is therefore very wise of UNICEF to have a programmatic approach to the ‘first and second decade’ of life. By doings so, UNICEF should continue to ensure close collaboration with other relevant UNAIDS co-sponsors.

The main challenge during the first decade is obviously to be born free of HIV. UNICEF plays a very central part in the prevention of mother to child transmission, and in improving treatment for those children who become infected. We know that more needs to be done, particularly on the treatment side, but we commend UNICEF for this important work.

The second decade has other challenges. The children, who are born HIV free, need to remain negative during their adolescence, and the HIV positive children need care and support to live well with HIV after becoming youth and adults. This requires that UNAIDS and its partners collaborate directly with young people through education and information, through empowerment and through accessible and suitable services.

To successfully addressing the needs of adolescents living with HIV, the whole spectrum of sexual and reproductive health and rights issues must be included. The ALL IN! (#EndAdolescentAIDS) platform has become an important platform for action and collaboration with and for adolescents. This collaboration has succeeded because of good and effective coordination of different partners at all levels. 

Mr. President,

We would like to commend UNICEF for the work on disaggregating and analysis of data, where you have been able to demonstrate that despite an overall decline in new HIV cases and HIV related mortality in the age group 0-19, there are significant differences in the different age groups.

We also know that AIDS-related deaths are declining globally (with 35% since 2005). However, the 10 – 19 years-old age group are the only age group within which AIDS-related deaths have increased in the past seven years.  AIDS is now the leading cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second most common cause of death among adolescents globally. We strongly encourage UNICEF to continue this important work in securing disaggregated data in order to see how best to address these challenges.

Let me also underline that we believe disaggregation and programming always have to start from a gender analysis. We know that boys and girls are treated differently from birth and onwards, and there may be different mechanisms that make them more vulnerable to HIV.

In many contexts, adolescent girls are infected at much higher levels than boys in the same age group. Interventions therefore need to target young girls and women.  In order to better understand and act upon the gender dynamics and differences, we would like to see more gender specific analyses and reporting from UNICEF.

Mr. President,

We very much welcome the adoption of the UNAIDS Strategy 2016-21. We thank UNICEF and all the UNAIDS co-sponsors for the efforts made so that the needs of children and adolescents are well reflected and that specific targets have been set. The UNAIDS Strategy is a great example of a multi-sectoral approach, by being solidly anchored in the Agenda 2030.

With regard to the importance of cross-sectorial approaches, we would like to highlight that education, including comprehensive sexuality education, particularly for girls, is important for empowerment. The school environments is also an important arena for young boys and girls to learn about healthy life styles including sexuality, gender equality and relationships. Cooperation between health and education sectors should be stimulated and facilitated.

Finally, the SDG-target relating to HIV and the new UNAIDS strategy calls for an end to the epidemic of HIV through a fast-track approach and a range of methods for comprehensive prevention. The target will need renewed energy and smarter ways of working based on a good understanding of data linked to the dynamics of HIV.

We cannot expect a large increase in funding, which means that more needs to be achieved with less. This is not an easy task, and a challenge to all of us. We expect UNICEF, together with UNAIDS and co-sponsors, to always search for new partnerships and better ways of working in such a challenging climate.

Thank you.