Number of AIDS Orphans to Skyrocket in 6 Years, Study Says
March 12, 2004
By 2010, 25 million children worldwide -- roughly half the number in US public schools -- will become AIDS orphans, according to a study to be published next month by the Washington-based nonprofit International AIDS Trust (IAT). Currently, there are about 14 million children around the world orphaned by AIDS, and their number is growing by 800,000 each year, the study reports. And as the number of women with HIV grows to 50 percent of those infected, the effect on children worldwide will worsen.
"The numbers are just mind-boggling," said Sandra L. Thurman, president of IAT and the first presidential envoy for AIDS under President Clinton. "We can't even begin to get our heads around the social and anthropological consequences of this, because we are just at the beginning of this epidemic," said Thurman on the sidelines of a weekend Caribbean health conference that ended Sunday.
Besides social stigma and emotional stress, AIDS orphans suffer loss of food, health care, education and security, and are more vulnerable to exploitation.
Every day, more than 2,000 infants contract HIV at birth through mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), and most die by the age of five. IAT figures show that 580,000 infants died of AIDS in 2001. MTCT risk can be greatly reduced with a one-time dose of nevirapine, available for $8. Mother's milk is another primary HIV transmission route. Researchers say study in this area is urgently needed, as most women worldwide have no choice about how to nourish their babies.
Mothers should not be overlooked in the AIDS orphan crisis, said Thurman. "We have to try to keep these mothers alive, because we know from decades of research that every day we can keep a child with its mother, the more viable that child is -- physically and psychologically."
The IAT report, conducted in conjunction with the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, will be submitted to Congress on April 7.
03.09.04; Ken Stier
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.