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UNHCR becomes co-sponsor of UNAIDS

Briefing notes

UNHCR becomes co-sponsor of UNAIDS

25 June 2004

As part of the effort to strengthen the UN's response to the global AIDS epidemic, UNHCR has become the 10th co-sponsor of UNAIDS after signing a memorandum of understanding yesterday (Thursday 24 June).

Even though the prevalence of HIV in refugee populations is often lower than in the surrounding host community, refugees are at risk of infection as they are a vulnerable population and can be exposed to sexual violence because of conflict. UNHCR considers HIV prevention an essential component of its overall protection of refugees.

Refugees are often excluded from host countries HIV programmes and UNHCR considers reaching these individuals a vital HIV prevention strategy. It is also vital for the host populations. With 5,000 staff in more than 120 countries often in remote locations, UNHCR is in a unique position to provide HIV/AIDS programmes to refugees and people of concern to us.

UNHCR has established an HIV/AIDS unit and is becoming more active in the areas of voluntary counselling, testing and prevention of mother to child transmission. We provide minimal and essential HIV interventions in emergency refugee situations and carryout more comprehensive HIV/AIDS programmes in stable situations.

Africa has been the main target of our programmes as it hosts the second largest refugee population globally and has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world. UNHCR plans to have more comprehensive HIV/AIDS programmes Asia in early 2005.