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Champion of AIDS Orphans Dies at 80

A man considered a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and a champion for AIDS orphans has died. Father Angelo D’Agostino, founder of the Nyumbani Orphanage in Nairobi, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 80.

D’Agostino founded the orphanage in 1992. It is now home to about 100 children and helps care for many more in the surrounding communities.

In an interview with VOA several years ago, he talked about the plight of orphans in general in Africa.

“We’re looking at 25 million orphans who have nothing to do but to look for food. Nobody there to help them. No shelter. No kind of protection. And just trying to survive because there won’t be any law that will be covering it because most of the African governments cannot possibly take care of any orphans of that size,” he said.

The Jesuit priest and medical doctor said in the early days many children died of HIV/AIDS. But in recent years, due to the donation of anti-retrovirals from various countries, most of the children at the orphanage now survive.

“Thanks to the Brazilian government we recently got a shipment of the drugs. So, those children at the orphanage will be getting the anti-retroviral drugs. So, hopefully we won’t have any more of the deaths that we’ve been having every month,” he said.

Father D’Agostino was an outspoken critic of pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of not doing enough to make their medicines available. His dream of opening Nyumbani Village will be realized in a few weeks. The village will be home for the elderly and their grandchildren, whose parents died of AIDS. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua wrote host continuity, including two actualities from an old interview with Father D’Agostino.