UNICEF, NACO convention begins tomorrow

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Bangalore, May 27 (UNI) The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) will conduct the country's first three-day National Youth Peer Convention here from tomorrow.

The first of its kind convention is expected to attract over 400 peer educators from across the country and aims to offer a common platform to share experiences and lessons learnt and answer some critical questions on peer education.

The convention also aims to strengthen the networks in 25 districts as part of the UN agency's DISHA programme.

The convention marks a significant step ahead in UNICEF's campaign against HIV/AIDS, which calls upon everyone to join together in providing care and protection to children, adolescents and brings awareness among young people at the centre of the HIV/AIDS agenda, according to a UNICEF release here.

UNICEF's chief of HIV/AIDS in India Vidya Ganesh said the country had over 2.2 to three million people living with the disease and over 35 per cent of AIDS cases reported were below 25 years of age.

''India finds its youth at the Heart of the HIV/AIDS epidemic today with 40-50 per cent of new infections being between 15 and 29 years old,'' she added.

The current HIV/AIDS programmes were reaching only 15 per cent of young people while less than a quarter of young people had accurate information on how to protect themselves from HIV.

''This is a matter of concern when we know that the first step towards any kind of behaviour change is enhancing knowledge and skills to practise the behaviour,'' she added.

The convention was being organised in partnership with other youth organisations and hopes to not only create awareness but also a platform for the Voices of the Youth against HIV/AIDS at the district and state level.

The convention also aims to strengthen partnerships wherein youth and adults fight together against the epidemic. The event would offer peer educators and red ribbon networks an opportunity to showcase the work done by them at the community level.

It would feature sessions on role of youth in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS along with workshops in areas of enhancing skills in leadership, networking, team building, community mobilisation, using different mediums for HIV communication--puppetry, masks, folk art along with a live market place for showcasing some of the work of the young people, designed by young people themselves.

UNI VK MSP SW RAI1035

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