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World AIDS Orphans Day: Reaching out to vulnerable children in Nairobi

World AIDS Orphans Day: Reaching out to vulnerable children in Nairobi

Over 15 million children throughout the world have lost one or both parents to AIDS, leaving vulnerable child or extended-family headed households which struggle to survive. In Kenya, staff at the SOS Social and Medical Centre in Nairobi are working with AIDS orphans to improve their prospects for the future.

Children orphaned by AIDS often experience a wide range of rights violations, including deprivation of parental care, love and guidance, stigmatization, discrimination and a lack of nutritious food, shelter and education. Many AIDS orphans also suffer from the disease themselves and are unable to access adequate or affordable health care.

According to recent estimates, over 8% of the total population in Kenya have HIV/AIDS, and 1.2 million children in Kenya have lost one or both parents to the disease. The SOS Medical and Social Centre in Nairobi was established to support the local community, which includes AIDS orphans, those living with HIV/AIDS and street children, many living in the neigbouring slums. Currently the centre has 312 registered HIV/AIDS patients, many of these orphaned children. Offering a combination of free ARVs treatments, food supplies, counselling, and even educational support, these children are given a chance in life.

Kamene, now 15, became an AIDS orphan at a very young age when her mother passed away. Left in the care of her extended family, Kamene had been very ill for two years yet no one from her family had taken her to a medical centre. She later discovered that she was HIV-positive herself. HIV/AIDS still has a significant social stigma in Kenya and many people still do not understand the disease. Many orphans are left under the care of relatives who pay them very little attention, especially if they are HIV positive.

Luckily, one of Kamene’s aunts offered to help her. She was brought to the SOS Social and Medical Centre Nairobi where she became a beneficiary of the Family Strengthening Programme. She is given free medical care and nutritious food which she would not have been able to afford otherwise. With the help of SOS, Kamene’s health and quality of life is improving. She is now a happy young girl with many friends and hopes to become a doctor when she grows up, so that she can help others receive the same help she has been given.

Pamela Ilamwenya Dzala is a senior nurse at the SOS Social and Medical Centre Nairobi. She says that the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is the most destructive pandemic she has seen, which is likely to leave many millions more orphans in its wake over the coming years “We have a great challenge ahead to cater for these children and to provide them with the basic needs required.” However, she is optimistic about the role SOS Children can play in helping to improve the quality of life for AIDS orphans, many, like Kamene, suffering the effects of the disease themselves. Pamela says "We can do this by creating awareness of the dangers of the disease and by assisting the orphans left behind.”

Throughout the world, SOS Children are supporting nearly 400,000 people with medical treatments and preventative care, many of these children affected by HIV/AIDS. The next edition of our newsletter Family Matters will focus on medical care and the lives of the people who we help in our 68 Medical Centres across the world. You can subscribe to our newsletter here.