Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

Today is the 22nd annual World AIDS Day. To date, some 25 million  people worldwide have died in this epidemic. The latest numbers from UNAIDS, show that 33.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. The largest concentration being in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Only six African countries are not geographically a part of Sub-Saharan Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara.)

Hidden in among the number of deaths and people living with AIDS is this number: 16.6 million.
An 'orphan' is defined by the United Nations as a child who has 'lost one or both parents'. Worldwide, it is estimated that more than 16 million children under 18 have been orphaned by AIDS. Around 14.8 million of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.
In some countries, these orphans account for more that half of all orphans in the nation. For these children, without the AIDS epidemic, their families would still be intact.

The impact of these orphans is hard to calculate. In Nigeria alone, there were 2.5 millions AIDS orphans in 2009, or almost 2% of the total population of the country. In addition to the stress of watching a parent die, these children often have to become income earners for their families, face separation from siblings and stigma from the community. They often end up leaving school, face greater economic, health and nutrition problems than their peers and may suffer from higher depression rates. In all, it's a recipe for disaster as a generation of children is being neglected, undereducated and relegated to extreme poverty.

The first step in handling this problem is to teach prevention. We must also increase access to antiretroviral treatments and last find ways to support those already orphaned by providing access to education and health care.

We may never find of cure for HIV/AIDS, but we do know how to prevent transmission. We must educate people worldwide in condom use and remove the stigma associated with the disease. As much as I don't care for the Pope, his recent endorsement of condom use for male prostitutes is a first, baby, step in the right direction.  It overlooks the fact that just over half of all adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide are women and that the primary mode of transmission in Africa  is not through same-sex contact but heterosexual contact.

So, on this day we remember those we have lost to this scourge and those still living with HIV/AIDS. Find a charity that you feel supports HIV/AIDS prevention. Here's a short list:
Keep A Child Alive
Unicef: United States Fund
Buy (RED)


Nance said...

My support goes to the organization that supported by cousin when he was diagnosed, throughout his prolonged illness and his death. He worked for that organization. I will always be grateful.

Ahab said...

People need to take the HIV epidemic seriously, so I'm glad we have World AIDS Day. Too many lives have been destroyed by this disease.

Sidhe said...

Just read an article in last week's People magazine (waiting at the dentist) about a family in Illinois that has adopted two HIV children from Africa. They established a charity some years ago and have worked to get the waiting period, for international adoptions of children with diseases such as HIV, knocked down from a 3-9 month period to less than 10 days. Can't recall the name of the charity right now but if I do, I'll come back and share.