With almost a five percent HIV prevalence, Côte d’Ivoire is one of the countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS in West Africa. UNICEF helps sustain a health center in Bouake that treats over 800 HIV/AIDS orphans and vulnerable children as well as provides social and educational support.
Young Emily is HIV positive. AIDS took both her parents and now she lives with the daily reality of the disease. She stays with her aunt in the one-time rebel capital of Bouake in central Côte d’Ivoire. Here, AIDS has picked up where the civil war left off, continuing to take innocent lives. Daily chores leave Emily exhausted and reaching for her lifeline, her medication. Her aunt is unemployed and there is rarely enough money for food, never mind medicine. But she’s one of the lucky ones. Every few days she sets off alone for a special center in central Bouake. Here, doctors that specialize in pediatric AIDS examine her; these regular visits allow them to track her progress. For nearly ten years UNICEF has worked with this center to provide support to those affected by AIDS.
DR. SORO OUATTARA PAULE [Pediatric Specialist]
Because of the poverty and the fact that our sick patients can’t work, the center has to take care of the patients not only medically, but also socially. We give food to parents and their children.
The center is also home to a youth outreach project. Members go door-to-door, visiting families affected by AIDS, offering emotional and psychological support. To those families unaffected, they offer awareness and advice.
JEAN CLAUDE [Peer Educator]
Sexuality is a taboo subject in African culture and usually it’s easier for young people to talk about it and find answers because we share the same daily experiences.
At this UNICEF-supported clinic in Yopougon, outside Abidjan, HIV positive pregnant women undergo treatment to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus. After giving birth, their babies undergo testing to determine whether or not the treatment was successful. These centers and clinics are critical to the health of a nation. Ninety percent of infections in children are the result of mother to child transmission. Reducing the country’s infection rate is the ultimate goal. Existing projects have been successful, but more needs to be done. This is Amy Bennett, reporting for UNICEF Television. Unite for children.