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UN:  AIDS Will Leave Millions of Children Orphans - 2002-07-10

A new U.N. report estimates there will be at least 25 million AIDS orphans by the year 2010. The report was released at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona.

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, said there is no quick solution to the problem. "Even if today, by some miracle, all HIV transmission would stop the number of orphans because of AIDS will continue to rise," he said. "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, said 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," she said.

Ms. Bellamy said 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 said 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.