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India And China Fail To Learn Lessons From Africa on HIV/AIDS - 2002-12-05

The head of an N-G-O that cares for AIDS orphans says India and China are following the same path as African countries in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She says that means those two countries will have tens of millions of orphans within the next decade.

Albina du Boisrouvray is the founder of the FXB Association, which has programs to help children affected by HIV/AIDS in twenty-one countries.

She says India and China could learn a valuable lesson from Africa, where many leaders took little or no action against the disease for twenty years.

She says, "We are now seeing what the effects of the denial from governments are producing. The denials by governments for the past twenty years of the roads of transmission of the epidemic has created so many people being infected in their countries that they’re dying at very great rates. You know that one person dies every six minutes in the world of AIDS. And the most people carrying the virus and developing the disease are in Africa. So it’s producing a huge, huge number of orphans."

Countess du Boisrouvray says current UN estimates of the expected number of AIDS orphans are far too low. She says instead of forty million within the next ten years, the number is more likely to be at least one hundred million.

"When we talk at FXB about a hundred million AIDS orphans by the year 2010 in the world," she says, "I mean we are probably unfortunately again underneath of the figure of the reality."

She says India – with a population of one billion – has all same the risk factors as African countries in spreading the epidemic.

She says, "In the case of India, it’s running silently and it’s running invisibly and a lot more people are carrying it (HIV) because you have a huge number of migrant workers, as you do in China as well. And so those migrant workers – unfortunately they catch the virus – they’re the highest group at risk. It’s not just the truck drivers. In the case of India, it’s also the sailors. It’s the fishermen. It’s the masons. It’s the people who come from the countryside that are too poor to make a living. They go to the cities like Bombay, New Delhi, Calcutta and then they contract the virus from the prostitutes because they’re far away from their family. They come back to see their families. They infect their wives, who then in turn infect the babies who are born."

What’s more, she says, India and China have risk factors that Africa does not have – the sale of blood and human organs.

The founder of FXB came to Washington this week to meet with US and World Bank officials. She’s lobbying for funds for community-based programs that are designed to help AIDS-stricken communities. Programs that she says can be run for small amounts of money, yet yield very big results.

"Well, you have a rural community, for instance, where some children are roaming around because the mother has died, the father has died. They’re all alone in their little house," she says. "They cannot work their land. They’re too young. They cannot, of course, feed themselves. They cannot go to school. Within that community, we group the community together. And we work with them and say, who in this community would be willing to take in those children and raise them. And we give that guardian or that family willing to take them in a very small grant of between $75.00 and $125.00 dollars. With that, that family or that guardian starts a small income-generating activity."

She says the money earned from the small business if often enough to support the family.

Albina du Boisrouvray says if more isn’t done to care for AIDS orphans, many children will turn to prostitution and drugs. She says they are also prime recruits for rebel and terrorist groups.