Sun, Nov 28, 2004 - Page 4 News List

AIDS drive appeals to students

CALL TO ACTION An AIDS campaign launched by World Vision in Taiwan aims to get young people to give their time, money and creativity to battle the epidemic

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

When teacher Tsao Mei-lan (曹美蘭) told her teenage class on the small island of Matsu about an AIDS-afflicted boy in Nairobi, Kenya, it was more than just a catchy tearjerker from a remote corner of the world. It was about action: getting teens to help children living with HIV.

After joining the teacher training program "Lesson for Life" initiated by World Vision in Taiwan, the 26-year-old Tsao is looking forward to sharing with her students more stories of children with HIV/AIDS around the world. She will talk more about the stigmatized disease and the plight of AIDS orphans, and encourage her students to help by making a donation.

With the help of World Vision's education and fundraising campaign, Tsao believes that everyone can make a difference.

"Every day, 14,000 people are infected with HIV," said Hank Du (杜明翰), the Executive Director of World Vision in Taiwan.

According to statistics from the UN Special Mission on Children, 14 million children have lost their parents to the disease in the past 20 years. Last year in Africa alone, the deadly virus took 3 million lives.

Du cited these numbers as part of a call for immediate action to help orphaned children in Africa.

"AIDS is a disease that enters a country without a visa," Du said. "Since we all live in a global village, no one can afford to ignore the disease."

One alarming trend is that an increasing percentage of young people are contracting HIV. Almost half of those infected with HIV are between the ages of 15 and 24.

In his trip to the AIDS-plagued countries of Rwanda and Lesotho, Du saw many parentless children who skipped school to work and support their even younger brothers and sisters.

As the annual Dec. 1 World AIDS Day nears, World Vision in Taiwan's "Lesson For Life" campaign has offered teachers nationwide a free DVD to share with their students, which contains stories of children living and struggling with the disease. Teachers are advised to discuss what can be done to help needy children and stem the pandemic. Students are encouraged to predict what would help ameliorate the AIDS situation and to write an imaginary "good news" report on the global epidemic.

The children's vision of an AIDS-free world, the organization said, will be put on the Web site of the UN's Global Movement for Children.

Currently, 257 schools have joined the program. The organization is aiming to have 300 schools and 300,000 people participate.

"Our goal is to achieve care from womb to tomb," said the Director of the Department of Health Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), "Love for patients with HIV has no boundaries."

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