Indian icon Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was appointed as International Goodwill Ambassador of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) on Monday on the eve of the 67th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The former Miss World as UN envoy will help raise awareness on issues related to HIV infections in children and will also promote the need for increased access to antiretroviral treatment.
"I am honoured to accept this appointment. Spreading awareness on health issues, especially related to women and children, has always been a priority for me. And now, as a new mother, I can personally relate to this--the joys and concerns of every mother and the hopes that we have for our children," Aishwarya said.
"I strongly believe that every baby should be born free from HIV. And I wish that every woman living with HIV stays healthy and has access to treatment. I promise that with UNAIDS, I will do my utmost to make this happen," she added.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé welcomed Aishwarya to the UNAIDS family and said, "Mrs Rai Bachchan is respected and admired by millions of people around the world."
"I am convinced that through her global outreach, Mrs Rai Bachchan can help UNAIDS reach its goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015," he added.
Aishwarya's main focus will be the Global Plan that works towards removing HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive. Launched last year in June at the UN, the plan focuses on 22 countries including India, where more than 90 percent of all HIV infections are found among children.
Among the 22 countries twenty one of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, where the estimated number of newly-infected children with HIV fell by 25 percent, from 360,000 in 2009 to 270,000 in 2011, according to UNAIDS.
"Through her work in raising awareness of the issues and advocating for increased access to services Mrs Rai Bachchan will be instrumental in helping to ensure that no more babies are born with HIV and that their mothers stay alive and healthy," said Sidibé. "We look forward to working with her to reach our collective goals."