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AIDS and Orphans -- A Growing Human Tragedy - 2002-07-11


The report entitled "Children on the Brink 2002" puts the current number of AIDS orphans at 13-million, spread over 88-countries. Most of the children are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report is a joint effort of UNAIDS, UNICEF and USAID.

Dr. Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS, says there is no quick solution to the problem. "Even if today, by some miracle, all H-I-V transmission would stop the number of orphans because of AIDS will continue to rise. And that is one of the reasons that I have been saying for the last few weeks that we are only at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic."

Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, says AIDS orphans face many obstacles. "You are going to continue to have the potential for young people growing up who are outcasts from their community. They carry a stigma. Not infected necessarily, but a stigma. They may have been forced out of school. They will not have life skills, not really become engaged in the community."

Ms. Bellamy says the children may become the targets of exploitation or may themselves become exploiters.

She says there is a three-part strategy to deal with the problem based on family, community and the individual.

First, provide long-term support, if necessary, to extended families caring for the orphans. Next bolster community institutions, such as non-governmental and religious organizations.

And the UNICEF executive director says whether or not the orphans have family support, they may still need community support in some areas, such as ensuring they get an education.

Some non-governmental organizations sharply differ with the U-N estimate of 25-million orphans by the year 2010. They say the U-N figure is far too low, and estimate the number will be closer to 100-million.

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