November 28 2003
World AIDS Day: AIDS affecting the futures of millions of children
28/11/2003 - World AIDS Day on 1 December has served to highlight the importance of fighting the worldwide epidemic. AIDS is the fourth biggest cause of death in the world and has, as a result, severely affected the lives and futures of scores of children around the globe - particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Three million of the estimated 42 million people worldwide that are currently infected with the virus are children under the age of 15. Last year, some 2,000 children became HIV positive every day. Furthermore, the AIDS epidemic has orphaned an estimated 14 million children worldwide, a figure expected to rise to 25 million by 2010, as the epidemic shows no signs of abating.
On World AIDS Day, SOS Children's Villages would like to underline its commitment to children whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. SOS Children's Villages is particularly engaged in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world's most affected region. Nine of ten children infected with HIV or AIDS are African.
In fact, three-quarters of all the HIV/AIDS infected people in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Societies, economies and the stability in many of the countries in this region have been virtually crippled as a result. In many of the villages within this region, entire generations of parents have been wiped-out by the disease. Combined with the general widespread poverty affecting Sub-Saharan Africa, the AIDS epidemic has led to an orphan crisis that, in the coming years, is expected to escalate to dramatic and unprecedented proportions.
SOS Children's Villages has, therefore, set up various programmes in the region to support AIDS orphans and assist the most destitute children and families affected by the disease.
These HIV/AIDS-related programmes are operating, among others, in Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Under these programmes, SOS Children's Villages is working with communities to, above all, prevent the abandonment of children whose families are affected by HIV/AIDS.
The organisation does so by supporting the most vulnerable families to ensure they have the means to care for their children and, as such, make sure a child can remain at home. Support from SOS Children's Villages is provided in various forms and ranges from awareness building, on how HIV/AIDS is spread and how mother-to-child transmission can be prevented, to offering voluntary counselling and testing for parents living with the virus. Material aid in the form of food and school fees is provided to particularly vulnerable households, as is anti-retroviral treatment for infected parents.
Many of the children that are particularly at risk of being abandoned are living in families with one or more terminally ill parent. In other cases, one or even both parents are missing due to HIV/AIDS. These are then often households headed by either a grandparent or even an older sibling. Many such households, however, live in extreme poverty and are lacking basic necessities such as food and clothing, as well as being mostly completely deprived of health care and education.
Children from such households are especially vulnerable to social exclusion, child labour, abuse and exploitation within their communities. In urban areas, many end up as street children and are exposed to sexual exploitation, as well as being at high risk of becoming HIV/AIDS infected.
In Swaziland, for example, SOS Children's Villages is supporting families that are particularly at risk of abandoning their children through its social centre in Mbabane. Under this programme, families are provided with monthly support for food, clothing, school fees and medical aid to ensure they have the means to care for their children. Swaziland is one of the Sub-Saharan African countries that will see the largest increase in the number of orphans by 2010.
Another one of the most severely affected countries is Lesotho, where 80 percent of the orphans will have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. Through its social centre in Maseru, SOS Children's Villages is carrying out home visits to especially vulnerable families to ensure that the psychological, physical and educational needs of the children are being provided for.
In South Africa, SOS Children's Villages is running eight HIV/AIDS-related programmes through its social centres in various cities. In Cape Town, the support provided includes parental training for caregivers as well as training on income-generating activities. In addition, food parcels, clothing and medical care are also provided.
The main challenge to improve the lives of children affected by HIV/AIDS is without doubt in Sub-Saharan Africa. While being actively engaged in this region, SOS Children's Villages will also share the experiences it gained there with its other facilities worldwide.
World Aids Day - Some Facts
World AIDS Day was created and adopted in January 1988 by 140 countries meeting at the World Summit of Ministers of Health in London, United Kingdom. Governments, national AIDS programmes, non-governmental and local organisations, as well as individuals worldwide are called upon to both draw attention to the importance of fighting the epidemic, and to show their solidarity in this effort.
Additional information on the HIV/AIDS work of SOS Children's Villages