Efforts to Fight HIV/AIDS Not Reaching Enough Children, Health Workers at Conference Say
August 7, 2008
Despite significant funding for HIV/AIDS treatment in the developing world and efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission, the global response to the disease has "short-changed" children, health workers at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City said Wednesday during the conference's first plenary lecture on children, the New York Times reports. In the past five years, 1.5 million children have died of AIDS-related causes, and 15 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease, according to Michael Sidibe, a UNAIDS official. An estimated two million children younger than age 15 are HIV-positive.
Richter said that although the news media have often focused on the experience of AIDS orphans, "children orphaned by AIDS are, sadly, only the tip of the iceberg of HIV-affected children" (New York Times, 8/7). "It is the needs of all children, especially vulnerable children, not whether they meet the definition of orphan, that must be our primary focus," Richter said, adding, "The focus on orphans had individualized the challenge of care and support. It has framed the epidemic's impact on children as individuals rather than a national social problem and has separated assistance to children from efforts to support families and communities" (The Star, 8/7).
Richter, who said all children in communities severely affected by HIV/AIDS require psychological, nutritional and other support, added that treating children in HIV/AIDS programs would be more effective and efficient if money went directly to families and communities. She added that low-income people have shown that they make good decisions about obtaining food and other provisions and that financial barriers, including bus fare to treatment centers, often prevent women from taking their children for medical care.
A report released by the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS said that governments and donors should develop new approaches to help children most affected by the disease. Other speakers during the lecture said that children would be better served through a study of family dynamics. Lorraine Sherr of University College London said that more needs to be done to help families cope psychologically following the death of an HIV-positive family member (New York Times, 8/7).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.