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International News

Africa: AIDS Fight May Be Changed by Religious Care for Orphans

September 25, 2003

A survey of 505 religious organizations operating in six African nations showed that 95 percent support orphans, working almost entirely without outside funds, a finding that UNICEF officials said could alter the way the world fights AIDS by encouraging more funding for small congregations. The joint UNICEF and World Conference of Religions for Peace survey found that more than half of the congregations and groups had started to help orphans within the last four years.

The report was released during the 13th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa, being held in Nairobi.

UNICEF officials said the report would probably prompt health workers to survey the work being done by small faith-based groups and to become closer partners with them. The officials also said UNICEF would likely use the report to encourage country directors worldwide to increase their faith-based group contacts.

Geoff Foster, a Zimbabwean pediatrician who compiled the survey, and colleagues focused on Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, and Uganda. The six southern and eastern African countries are estimated to have 5.8 million orphans, representing 12-17 percent of all children. Roughly half lost one or both parents because of AIDS.

Researchers did not attempt to canvass all religious organizations. In Kenya, surveyors questioned 200 groups supporting 40,000 orphans; the country has 75,000 Christian congregations and groups. Researchers had no previous information on most of the groups, said Foster.

Of the 505 groups, 71 percent provided food or clothing; two-thirds gave school assistance; and more than half worked on HIV prevention with the orphans. They also visited orphans in their homes, established orphanages and day-care centers, and provided medical care, counseling and psychological support. The groups asked for more resources and training on AIDS issues, said Foster.

"Muslims are reaching to Christians, and Christians are helping Muslims," Nicolette Moodie, a UNICEF specialist on HIV/AIDS in South Africa, said of the groups helping children. "We also want to watch out for proselytizing, but we haven't found that," she said.

Back to other news for September 25, 2003

Adapted from:
Boston Globe
09.24.03; John Donnelly

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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