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Youngsters forced into sex trade especially vulnerable to AIDS, UNICEF warns

Youngsters forced into sex trade especially vulnerable to AIDS, UNICEF warns

UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, has warned that youngsters forced into the sex trade are especially vulnerable to contracting the HIV virus.

The warning came from UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy in a statement earlier this week to the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Yokohama, Japan. Ms. Bellamy also urged international cooperation to confront children's sexual exploitation, including an end to the "shameful silence that keeps commercial exploitation and abuse a secret."

The meeting is a follow-up to the first World Congress held five years ago in Stockholm and aims to draw attention to the plight of children in the world sex trade and devise further methods to protect children from sexual exploitation.

Delegates to the first World Congress devised a plan to combat the sexual exploitation of children embodied in the Stockholm Declaration, which called on governments to give high priority and dedicate more financial and human resources to combating the problem; promote stronger cooperation among all sectors and strengthen the role of families in protecting children and criminalize all forms of sexual exploitation of children and penalize offenders.

The Declaration also urged countries to review, revise, enforce and promote the relevant laws, policies, programmes and practices; develop methods to prevent, protect, recover and reintegrate children vulnerable to exploitation; create a climate that helps care givers to fulfil their obligations to children; mobilize political and other partners; and try to involve more children in the fight against their sexual exploitation.