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Write for Life: Children's Letters Advocate for Children with HIV

20. November 2009

    By Michelle Scott*

    NEW YORK, 19 November 2009— “Sick kids need medicine. Please share with them,” Zoia Kallimanis Foster read from her letter to pharmaceutical company leaders and government officials.  This second grader at PS 24 in the Bronx wrote her letter as part of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance’s Prescription for Life Campaign to advocate for the more than two million children in the world with HIV.  About two-thirds of these children do not have access to the medications they need to live.

    Kallimanis Foster read her letter at the opening of the Prescription for Life exhibit at the United Nations in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The exhibit features excerpts of letters that were written in response to the campaign and will be on display through December 4, 2009.  The event was hosted by UNICEF.

    “These letters remind us that if children can figure it out, why can’t we?” Karen Plater, Associate Secretary, Stewardship & Education for Mission, The Presbyterian Church in Canada and co-chair, Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance’s HIV and AIDS Strategy Group, asked the group gathered around the exhibit.
    Plater reiterated the simple call to action that is in these letters from children in more than 14 countries.  The letters urge simple and affordable diagnostic tests for infants that can be performed on the spot; increased antiretroviral treatment for all HIV-positive expectant mothers; and increased efforts by pharmaceutical companies and governments to find more appropriate and accessible treatments for children and infants.

    Eric Sawyer, Civil Society Partnerships Advisor for UNAIDS and founder of Act Up New York and Housing Works spoke at the event from his own experience as a person living with HIV for nearly 30 years. “Is that moral justice that I can buy nearly three decades of life and hopefully even more because I have access to the latest medications as soon as they’re developed?”
    Sawyer noted that while he has been able to extend his life by decades, children who are born with HIV in the developing world have a life expectancy of less than five years.  “I don’t think it’s moral.  I don’t think it’s just.  I don’t think it’s right,” he said.

    “The participation of young people in the work that we do is critical,” said Ken Legins, Senior Advisor, HIV Policy and Evidence for UNICEF.  “This is an example that we need to take to heart,” he said of the many letters written by children in response to this campaign. 

    Legins lifted up the progress that has already been made and the work that is still ahead noting statistics in UNICEF’s Fourth Stocktaking Report on Children with AIDS that is due to be released next week.

    The report found that 45 per cent of mothers with HIV now receive medicines during pregnancy when in 2004 that number was 10 percent.  Yet the mother to child transmission rate is still approximately 80 percent in the developing world when it is 1-2 percent in more developed countries.  These statistics show that while much has been accomplished to protect AIDS youngest victims, there is still much left to do.

    The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS.  The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland.  For more information about the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance and the Prescription for Life Campaign, please see www.e-alliance.ch

    *Scott is a free-lance communications consultant based in New York

    For more information and for high resolution photos contact:
    Michelle Scott michelles615@gmail.com , 347 525 5377 (mobile) or Sara Speicher, sspeicher@e-alliance.ch, +44 7821 860 723 (UK mobile)

    Images of the banners and Zoia’s letter and audio of the speeches are available at:

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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