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Youth Advocate for adolescents in the fight against AIDS addresses the Chadian Nation

By Manuel Moreno Gonzalez N’DJAMENA, Chad, 1 December 2014 – 16-year-old Mani Djelassem Virgille stood confidently in a packed auditorium whilst addressing the Chadian nation as the recently appointed Youth Advocate for adolescents in the fight against AIDS.

“It is both an honor but also a great responsibility that I am prepared to carry the torch for the well-being of children and young people of my country,” she said in front of national television and more than 3,000 people who attended the World AIDS Day official ceremony in Chad´s capital, N´Djamena.

“I would humbly assure you that I will give the best of myself to be a worthy Youth Advocate. I promise to be a role model and to be an example through my academic performance and behaviour,” she added.

The First Lady of the Republic of Chad, Mrs Hinda Deby Itno, accompanied by several heads of agency of the United Nations in Chad, including UNICEF, WHO, UNAIDS and UNFPA and national associations fighting against HIV and AIDS officiated at this event. A number of activities took place, the highlight being the nomination of young Mani and, therefore, the delivery of her message.

Mani Djelassem Virgille receives her official certificate by the First Lady of Chad, Mrs Hinda Deby Itno, and UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Thomas Gurtner.
Mani Djelassem Virgille receives her official certificate by the First Lady of Chad, Mrs Hinda Deby Itno, and UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Thomas Gurtner.

“Like many millions of children around the world, I was infected with the HIV virus at birth. This infection was detected early and I therefore received the appropiated support. I was fortunate to frequently attend the Djenandoum Naasson Centre where I found medical, psychosocial and peer support with children and adolescents in the same situation as me. Thanks to this, I am pleased to be here with you today.”

Mani lost her mother at a very tender age due to the HIV virus. She was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and lived with her father Djelassem Sakor until she was 11 years old, when the family decided she should move to Chad to stay with his father’s brother and current guardian Djelassem Sakor. When she arrived to Moundou, a village located in southern Chad, she started to attend the UNICEF-supported Djenandoum Naasson Centre, which provided the necessary support and care she needed.

The Chadian government and its partners have made significant progress to provide free AIDS treatment and access to health care services for people living with HIV throughout the country. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of people receiving treatment has tripled, yet there is a need to reinforced planning of national HIV strategies and policies to target children and adolescent.

“We must do everything so that all the children of Chad and the world have the chance I had. This will only be possible if we work together to prevent transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, to prevent new HIV infections among young people and encourage them to get tested to know their HIV status,” she stated.

Mani will be working during 2015 with UNICEF to support Government’s effort in the fight against the virus and also to advocate for the rights of people and adolescents living with HIV.

“We must also fight against the stigmatization of people living with HIV. We carry the virus, of course, but we are people like you, we have the same rights and duties. One of our priorities will be to work with adolescents and young people living with HIV to ensure their empowerment and giving them confidence to face life,” she concluded.

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Behind ODESZA’s « Sun Models » music video

By Manuel Moreno González and Nicholas Ledner

It is the 30th of October of 2014 and I am standing with a drone flying above my head, accompanied by three heavily armed military men, one United Nations security advisor, five international filmmakers, seven actors and a four-month-old baby called Patricia. Dozens of people are taking pictures with their cellphones…. I close my eyes and I ask to myself: how did I arrive here? I feel like I am on a film set in Los Angeles and a Hollywood cinematographer myself, but this is Moundou, southern Chad, and I work for UNICEF. The drone is actually filming a beautiful sunset scene; the military men are controlling the amused crowd; the security person is a colleague; and Patricia, the baby, is the main actress of the story.

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Filming the market scene for ODESZA´s music video on PMTCT. ©UNICEF Chad/2014/Manuel Moreno

So, what does this have to do with the work of UNICEF? Moundou is a beautiful sunny green town located about 400 kilometers south of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. It was chosen for the filming of the music video produced by UNICEF Chad in collaboration with American electronic music duo ODESZA. The video aims to illuminate a critical step in achieving an AIDS-free generation: expanding access to HIV treatment for pregnant women. The song chosen was ODESZA´s “Sun Models” and its duo, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, were fully on board since the conception of the project. It is commonly known that music can inspire people. This project was born from this specific idea: if music is accompanied by a moving story, with a message of hope, the final product could be the catalyst to reach individuals, news media, political figures, the international community and donors to focus more on an issue.

Emile Fitikissou and baby Patricia. Both are father and daughter on and off screen. ©UNICEF Chad/2014/Manuel Moreno
Emile Fitikissou and baby Patricia. Both are father and daughter on and off screen. ©UNICEF Chad/2014/Manuel Moreno

A clear message: children born to HIV-positive mothers can be HIV-free The world has what is needed to eliminate the transmission of the virus from mother-to-child and achieve an AIDS-free generation. New HIV infections among children in high-income countries is virtually zero, but according to UNICEF´s 2014 Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, despite great progress, a child is born with HIV every two minutes. So what are we missing? Where are we failing? Why, in low-income countries such as Chad, is the prevalence of babies born HIV-positive so high? In the past few years, Chad has shown great commitment in the expansion of programmes that keep women living with HIV alive and effectively prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The coverage in health facilities offering these services has tripled since 2012 and, as a result, more than two thousand babies were born free of HIV in 2013. However, 10,000 pregnant women living with HIV are still left without treatment and support in the country. Lire la suite Behind ODESZA’s « Sun Models » music video