Media Release

7 August 2008

Opening of HIV shelter for children, Mexico

Australia’s Ambassador for HIV, Mr Murray Proctor, Canada’s Minister for Health, the Hon. Tony Clement and New Zealand’s Chargé d’Affaires Rachel Bennett today (6 August) opened a shelter for children living with HIV in Mexico City.

The shelter, run by the NGO La Casa de la Sal, will house children who are HIV positive and have no family member to care for them – either due to economic circumstances or the deaths of their parents.

Mr Proctor said, “Children are often overlooked in the HIV response. We know that children suffer the impacts of AIDS in many ways. Affected children may suffer the trauma of losing one or both of their parents. HIV positive children may have to battle ill health or arduous medication regimes. Both affected and infected children often lose educational opportunities, face economic hardships and experience stigma and discrimination.”

The shelter was jointly funded by the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Embassies in Mexico City. Australia’s funding was provided through the Direct Aid Program (DAP) which targets small-scale development activities in 75 countries around the world.

Australia’s Ambassador to Mexico, Katrina Cooper said, “The Direct Aid Program provides us with the opportunity to make a real difference to disadvantaged people, such as the children in the La Casa de La Sal shelter.”

The Australian government has also provided funds to a short-stay shelter for HIV patients in Xalapa, Veracruz. This shelter run by the NGO Juntos Contra el VIH/SIDA, supports poorer Mexicans from rural areas in accessing treatment.

The DAP invests in education programs for the prevention of transmission of the virus and to fight the discrimination and stigma associated with the illness.

The facilities at the NGO CIFAM (Colectivo de Atención para la Salud Integral de la Familia) in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, were upgraded for these programs.

Mexico City is currently hosting the XVII International Aids Conference which brings together more than 20,000 delegates from around the world to discuss HIV treatment and prevention. High profile attendees include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former US President Bill Clinton.

Media Enquiries: DFAT Media Liaison - 02 6261 1555