ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 30 November 2006 – Kimberly Canady, 19, and Elias Perez, 20, both from Brooklyn, look tired but have a sparkle in their eyes as they arrive in Ethiopia after the 16-hour flight donated by Ethiopian Airlines. It’s the first time either of them has travelled outside the United States.
Tired or not, there is no time to rest. Kimberly and Elias are youth activists on an important UNICEF mission to see firsthand what AIDS is doing to children and young people in a region that has been hard-hit by the disease.
HIV-positive children orphaned by AIDS? Isn’t that an African story? Not necessarily. But although their story is similar to many others here in Ethiopia, the impact on their lives is worlds apart.
In Ethiopia, too many mothers are still passing the virus to their newborns, even though it could easily be prevented. Thousands of children wait for HIV treatment that is easily accessible in developed countries but a distant hope for most African children in need. Too many young people are infected because they don’t have the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe. And hundreds of thousands who have lost their parents to AIDS face hardships that challenge their potential to survive and thrive.