AIDS creates unprecedented orphan crisis

 

AIDS creates unprecedented orphan crisis

10 Jul 2002 15:55

 

By Patricia Reaney

 

BARCELONA, Spain, July 10 (Reuters) - The grim litany of statistics

unrolled at the Barcelona AIDS summit was capped on Wednesday

with a figure that shocked even the experts -- 25 million children

orphaned by the decade's end.

 

"AIDS has created an orphan crisis," said Peter Piot, the executive

director of the U.N. AIDS agency.

 

"This is without doubt one of the most shocking reports that has been

released at this conference."

 

Africa, hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic with 28.5 million HIV/AIDS

sufferers, also has the highest proportion of children who have lost

parents, according to the report.

 

By last year, more than 10 million children in sub-Saharan Africa

alone had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Twelve countries

accounted for 70 percent of the AIDS orphans.

 

The report, entitled Children on the Brink 2002, predicts that by 2010

almost six percent of all children in Africa will be orphaned because of

the disease that is destroying families, communities and the fabric of

society.

 

Piot compared the impact to that of war. But fathers are killed in wars,

he said, and AIDS robs children of both parents.

 

"This unprecedented crisis will require radically scaled-up national,

regional and community responses in the decades to come," he said.

 

Even if new HIV infection stopped, the number of orphans will continue

to increase because so many people are infected.

 

Without the antiretroviral drugs that have extended the lives of people

in wealthy countries, there is about an eight- or nine-year interval

between infection with HIV and death in countries in sub-Saharan

Africa, experts say.

 

DRUG TREATMENT FOR ALL

 

Piot cited the orphan crisis as another reason to initiate drug treatment

for everyone where it is possible.

 

The report was published jointly by UNAIDS, the U.N. children's

agency UNICEF and USAID, which provides funding to fight the

epidemic. It used estimates developed by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics

and data from 88 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the

Caribbean.

 

Carol Bellamy, the executive director of UNICEF, said children

orphaned by AIDS who are free of infection face discrimination

because it is often assumed they have the virus.

 

Orphans are also more likely to face psychological problems,

economic hardship and malnutrition and sickness.

 

Bellamy emphasised the importance of providing support to protect

and care for children, mobilise and strengthen community-based

responses and help orphans to stay in school.

 

Governments also have a part to play by developing essential services

to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.

 

"We must respond to these devastating statistics by addressing the

need and rights of both orphans and vulnerable children whose

parents are still living," she said.

 

While Africa has the highest proportion of orphans, Asia has the

largest number but fewer lost their parents to AIDS. Approximately

two million were orphaned by AIDS in 2001.

 

But the number of orphans in Asia could spread as the epidemic

grows. Even low prevalence rates in the populous region could

increase the number of orphans to levels that surpass the figures in

the most severely affected African countries -- Nigeria, Ethiopia and

the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 

An advertising campaign that premiered at the Barcelona meeting on

Wednesday, to be launched in the United States in October, will try to

drive home the severity of the AIDS crisis by focusing on children

orphaned by the epidemic.

 

1998-2001 Reuters Limited.