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Education Critical to AIDS Prevention Among Children: UNICEF Official

Education is critical in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS among children, said a UNICEF official in an interview with Xinhua this week.

From August 26 to 27, Ann M. Veneman, new executive director of UNICEF, visited northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, one of the least developed regions in the country.

"I'm very impressed by the training of HIV/AIDS knowledge in the local school," Veneman said, after she attended a class on that theme at the No. 15 Middle School of Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia.

During the class, students staged a play they had made themselves to practice how to say no to bad habits and protect themselves against drugs and HIV/AIDS.

A girl student described a scene she saw on TV about the terrible life of HIV/AIDS patients which had sparked her sympathy.

"Television can play a big role in HIV/AIDS education for young people," Veneman said.

Apart from education, Veneman said stemming mother-to-child transmission is also critical in HIV/AIDS control.

UNICEF plans to launch a global initiative to educate young people about HIV/AIDS later this year.

On her first China visit, Veneman spoke highly of the Chinese government in protecting children's rights. "The government is doing a great deal on the issue of children and the country is relatively easy to meet the millennium goal," said Veneman, referring to the United Nations' ambition to radically reduce HIV/AIDS around the world by 2015.

But there is still a long way to go as China is such a big country, she said, adding that with a huge population, a small percentage will make a huge difference.

UNICEF is cooperating with religious leaders to raise local people's awareness of HIV/AIDS, especially by targeting young people. The program has started in Ningxia with Muslim mullahs and in Yunnan with Buddhist monks.

"We hope all the efforts from UN agencies, NGOs and governments can be integrated to help children on the issue," said Veneman.

She said UNICEF is looking for the opportunity to call on businesses and wealthy individuals in China to donate for children's work.

(Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2005)

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