Caritas recently employed a new strategy for its advocacy efforts – by participating in an exhibition at the United Nations Centre Geneva as part of the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council, which was held during March.
The exhibit aimed to raise awareness among government officials and human rights experts about the need to provide access to early diagnosis and treatment for children living with HIV and Tuberculosis. “HAART” is an acronym for Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment, the combination of medicines that keep children healthy despite their HIV infection.
The Caritas display was part of a wider exhibition, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN in Geneva and including photographs and paintings from the NGOs: CESVI, Emergency and Save the Children Italy.
“We were most grateful for the opportunity to defend and promote the child’s right to health in such a graphic and creative manner,” said Msgr. Robert J Vitillo, Head of the Caritas Internationalis Delegation to the UN in Geneva. “Children living with HIV and TB often are forgotten in human rights discussions, so Caritas must continue to speak out so that they can have a chance to “have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We thank the Sàrmede Institute, the Permanent Mission of Italy and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations for their support in making this possible.”
Caritas worked in collaboration with the International School and Permanent Collection of Art Illustrations for Children – “Images of Fantasy”, located in Sàrmede, Italy, to bring together 50 paintings by artists from all over the world. They focused on fairytales from priority countries targeted by the “Global Plan Towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections Among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive” and in which ninety per-cent of all mother-to-child transmission of HIV occurs.
The HAART campaign was launched by Caritas in 2009 on the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
At the launch of the exhibit, Mr Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations in Geneva, said, “Especially with regard to human rights, a strong engagement of civil society with the UN human rights programme is fundamental to the promotion, protection and advancement or human rights in all regions of the world.”
Exhibit Host, Ambassador Laura Mirachian, of Italy, spoke of the purpose in sponsoring the exhibit, “We wanted to prove the consistency between the work of important national and international NGOs active in the field of Human Rights and the basic principles of our Constitution, to show how this partnership works.”
At a panel discussion during the same session of the Human Rights Council, Caritas raised concerns about obstacles to healthcare encountered by migrant children, especially those in irregular situations, and urged States to guarantee that the best interests of the child would always be accorded and would prevail. The representative of Slovenia responded that ensuring the child’s right to health also depends on their active engagement and asked what role children themselves should play in overcoming such challenges?