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UNICEF Says an AIDS-Free Generation Possible

The United Nations Children's Fund says an AIDS-free generation can be a reality. The agency is preparing to co-host a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda to share ideas on programs that work in fighting the disease. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau.

The United Nations estimates that 25 million people have died from AIDS since the disease was first identified in 1981. An estimated 38 million people around the world are currently infected. AIDS experts say combating HIV and AIDS has two main components - prevention and treatment. This includes everything from promoting safe sex practices to getting anti-retroviral drugs to those infected with the virus.

On June 16, representatives from UNICEF and President Bush's global AIDS initiative - President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as known as PEPFAR - will join international donors and relief organizations in Kigali to discuss how to implement meaningful HIV/AIDS programs.

Dr. Tom Kenyon is the chief deputy coordinator of PEPFAR. He says the conference will focus on how governments can allocate AIDS budgets for effective treatment and care. On the prevention track, controversial issues like promoting condom use will be on the table.

"Our expectation is that people will go back and do things differently when they get back to the country in which they are based," he said. "I know I was based in Namibia at last year's meeting, and we went back to totally redo our prevention portfolio."

UNICEF attributes a drop in AIDS transmissions among adolescents in Kenya, Malawi, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe to the success of safe sex campaigns.

Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF's acting chief for HIV and AIDS, says a major goal is to figure out how to reach the most at-risk population.

"I think we need to recognize that there is no magic bullet in terms of prevention of HIV," she said. "We need to really look at providing a comprehensive set of interventions that will reach even the hard to reach. Males that are having sex with males, injecting drug users. I think those are the most at risk individuals that we may need to provide additional service for. "

UNICEF and PEPFAR say countries that take a leading role in coordinating donors and programs are making the most progress in fighting AIDS. They point to Rwanda as a model of success. That country has been able to implement an accurate AIDS tracking system and expand pre-natal care for AIDS-infected mothers-to-be. Rwanda has improved adolescent care, instituted a strong AIDS information campaign, and attracted a growing number of international partners to fight the disease.