UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and world renowned pianist Lang Lang is using his star power to help raise awareness of the urgency to do more in addressing the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS – especially on the world’s most vulnerable children.
With posters in subway stations, on taxis and at bus stops, Lang Lang is raising awareness in a new campaign about the devastating impact of HIV and AIDS on the world’s most vulnerable children. The campaign is targeting the entire New York metropolitan area.
International meeting on AIDS
As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for over seven years, Lang Lang has been a passionate advocate for children’s rights around the world. To help ensure that children are no longer the missing face of HIV and AIDS, he launched the new campaign in connection with an international meeting on AIDS that took place at UN headquarters in New York last month.
Held a decade after the landmark UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, the high-level meeting in June included UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, world leaders, representatives of civil society, people living with HIV, and other partners.
The participants gathered to take stock of progress made against HIV and AIDS in the last decade and to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Advocating for the most vulnerable
Although global efforts to improve the lives of children and young people affected by the AIDS pandemic are increasing, they still fall short of the growing needs of millions.
By the end of 2010, an estimated 16.6 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Some 14.9 million of these children were living in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Much more must be done to help the most vulnerable children – especially those who have lost a parent, a teacher, a health worker or another loved one to AIDS,” said Lang Lang. “This is a global problem that needs a global response. We all have a role to play, and we must act with urgency to help ensure that the lives of children and their families can be saved and improved.”
HIV, abuse and poverty
Many HIV-affected children, particularly children who live in poverty, continue to face enormous obstacles. Among these are the burden of caring for sick relatives, trauma from the loss of parents and economic distress due to declining household incomes and high health-care costs.
Some children who lose their parents to AIDS are left to fend for themselves and their siblings. These young people are at a heightened risk of abuse or sexual violence, which makes them – and especially girls – more susceptible to HIV infection.
Analysis also shows that the poorest households are often the least resilient when it comes to the impact of HIV, and that HIV is, in itself, impoverishing.
Fear of stigma
Stigma related to HIV and AIDS is another issue addressed by the awareness campaign. Stigma and exclusion are most problematic in settings where epidemics are still relatively concentrated, so children and their parents can quickly become social outcasts.
Progressive legislation to reduce social exclusion, as well as access to social services for all households, are essential in improving the lives of children and communities affected by HIV.
UNICEF continues to provide global support for the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child; for programmes to curb stigmatization of those who have contracted HIV and AIDS; and for the protection of children who have lost one or both parents.
Through his music, Lang Lang has raised funds to maintain UNICEF programmes for young people affected by AIDS in China, among many other causes. The new campaign is just his latest effort on behalf of the world’s children.