Number of AIDS Orphans Expected to Double

The number of children orphaned by HIV-AIDS is expected to double to 25 million by the year 2010, according to a new report from UNICEF.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of United Nations Children's Fund, said that HIV-AIDS has created an "orphan crisis." In the third decade of the epidemic, AIDS has become a family disease, not one that affects just individuals. She said children growing up parentless in such huge numbers will create unprecedented social and economic problems.

Orphans often do not get adequate nutrition, education, or a land base, and they are in danger of sexual exploitation, and contracting HIV-AIDS themselves. One report last year suggested that communities devastated by AIDS will become hotbeds of terrorism.

Activists said the horrifying number of children who will be left parentless, penniless and without hope, in addition to having to care for their parents dying of HIV-AIDS, is one of the most compelling reasons to make drug treatments more widely available.

"In poor countries, the first strategy for addressing the issues of children affected by AIDS is to keep their parents alive," said Jacqueline Bataringaya of the charity Action-Aid.

HIV-AIDS kills about 8,000 people a day worldwide, and has infected 40 million people including three million children. The majority of the infected and dying are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In its report, titled Children on the Brink, UNICEF stressed that HIV-AIDS is not the sole reason children are losing parents.

But it notes that, without the AIDS epidemic, the number of orphans would actually be falling sharply because of marked gains in fighting other infectious diseases. AIDS is shaving decades off life expectancy in many African countries.

Worldwide, it projects there. will be 106 million orphans by the year 2010, about one-quarter of them created by HIV-AIDS. That is down slightly from the 108 million orphans in the world today.

In Asia, it is projected that there will be 57 million orphans by 2010, down from 65 million today. That amounts to 6.5 per cent of children on the continent. While the number of orphans will fall, the number of AIDS orphans will more than double in Asia, where the epidemic is in its infancy.

In Africa, the number of orphans is expected to grow to 42 million from 34 million today. Africa has the highest proportion of orphans, 12 per cent. Most striking is that, in 10 of the hardest-hit countries in Africa, it is expected that more than one in seven children will be orphans by 2010.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of orphans is projected to fall to 7.5 million from 8.2 million today. About 5 per cent of children are orphans.

In 1990, there were fewer than one million AIDS orphans worldwide. Today there are 13.3 million, and that number is expected to exceed 25 million by 2010.

A report, issued by the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Foundation, a Swiss charity, featured a much more grim estimate, predicting there could be 100 million AIDS orphans in the world by the end of the decade.

Their estimate is much higher than that of UNICEF, in part, because of differences in the definition of orphan. UNICEF and other international agencies count only children under the age of 15 who have lost both parents or, sometimes, their mother.

The 100 million figure is also more of a guesstimate. UNICEF, on the other hand, did country-by-country calculations of how many orphans there are today, and how many it expects there will be in five and 10 years.

In all the developed world, there are 600,000 AIDS orphans and they do not face many of the problems faced by their counterparts in the developing world.

Source : Report from Reuters and Associated Press.

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