Ensuring that Children’s Voices are Represented is not an Option

With so many eyes on June’s UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS (HLM), the subsequent Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV and AIDS, the Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS is deeply attuned to the fact that children continue to be overlooked.

We certainly welcomed the establishment of a Stakeholders Task Force to ensure that the voices of civil society are included in HLM preparations. However, options for nominations of members to this Task Force did not include those representing children. The inclusion of a youth representative, while important, is not sufficient; children and youth are two distinct population groups with distinct concerns and needs.

This omission runs counter to the 2014 UNAIDS Gap Report, which highlights children as one of 12 population groups left behind in the AIDS response. There are also numerous references to the slow progress in addressing the impact of HIV on children in the new UNAIDS Strategy in which children’s access to treatment is deemed “appallingly low.”

Children are frequently ignored or given low priority in the HIV and AIDS response because, unlike other populations, they are not able to participate in groups such as the Civil Society Task Force. Therefore, it is critical that their voices be heard through representative organizations or other forms of child participation. We will continue to work with our UNAIDS and UNICEF partners — and with all of you — in the coming months to ensure that the HLM outcomes help prevent deaths and improve the lives of people of all ages living with, and affected by, HIV. For the Coalition, ensuring that children’s voices are represented is not an option; it is a necessity if we are to reach all children.