Number of AIDS Orphans Could Exceed 25 Million by 2010, Report Says
The number of children in the developing world who have been orphaned because of the AIDS-related death of at least one parent will nearly double by 2010, from 13.4 million to 25.3 million, according to a report released yesterday at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, the Washington Post reports. The report, titled "Children on the Brink 2002," was produced by U.S. Agency for International Development, UNICEF and UNAIDS (Brown, Washington Post, 7/11). Since 1991, the number of children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS has "skyrocketed" from one million to the current 13.4 million, according to the Los Angeles Times (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 7/11). Overall, 12% of the 108 million orphans in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean lost a parent to AIDS-related causes. That figure is expected to jump to 24% by 2010, researchers say. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the region most affected by the epidemic, nearly 33% of all children who have lost a parent did so to AIDS-related causes, with researchers projecting that this figure will increase to 50% by 2010 (Washington Post, 7/11). Researchers noted that the number of children worldwide who are orphaned due to AIDS-related causes could be even higher because the statistics did not account for India, which has the second-largest number of people with HIV in the world. According to the report, if it were not for AIDS, the number of orphans would be dropping in Africa. In fact, the overall number of orphans worldwide is expected to remain stable for the next eight years, but the proportion of those who lost a parent to AIDS-related causes will increase (Altman, New York Times, 7/11). Anne Peterson, an official with USAID, said that "[e]ven if by some miracle the spread of the AIDS virus stopped today, the number of [AIDS-related] orphans would still rise for a decade," because of the lag between when a person contracts HIV and when he or she dies from AIDS-related complications (Washington Post, 7/11).
UNAIDS Director Dr. Peter Piot, calling the study "one of the most shocking reports released at this conference," said it signifies that the "very fabric of society is disappearing with family structures that are crumbling." Because of high poverty rates and other problems in the developing world, a child who loses even one parent is significantly less capable of surviving, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 7/11). The loss of a parent can force the extended family to take on the responsibility of raising the child, thereby lowering income and possibly driving the family into poverty, which in turn often forces a child to drop out of school in order to work to make money. In addition, the loss of working-age adults to AIDS-related causes has decreased agricultural production in many places, affecting children's economic and nutritional needs (Washington Post, 7/11). According to Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, the "orphan crisis" is not severe enough to begin recommending international adoptions, and the report did not recommend orphanages as an "appropriate first-line response" to the crisis (New York Times, 7/11). Instead, U.N. officials said they are trying to help by promoting "community involvement" to keep orphans in school (Wall Street Journal, 7/11).
New United Nations Foundation Advertising Campaign
The United Nations Foundation yesterday at the conference unveiled a new advertising campaign aimed at increasing Americans' donations to the group's anti-AIDS efforts, Reuters Health reports (Pincock, Reuters Health, 7/10). The campaign, which is titled "Apathy is Lethal," focuses primarily on the plight of AIDS orphans around the world (United Nations Foundation release, 7/10). While developing the campaign, the group tested "themes related to fear, the statistics of the epidemic, and guilt," and found that "[o]f all the different approaches that were possible, the one focused on orphans and children was the most effective for getting people interested," U.N. Foundation President Timothy Wirth said, adding that the ads "tr[y] to place these horrible [HIV and AIDS] statistics in an American context." The campaign, which was produced by the Advertising Council, will cost at least $30 million annually, Wirth said. He added that the campaign is expected to "go on ... for a number of years." Half of the money raised will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the other half will go to UNAIDS (Reuters Health, 7/10).
PRI's "The World" yesterday included a report on the orphan study. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Bell, "The World," PRI, 7/10).
NPR's "Morning Edition" today also reported on the findings and the new ad campaign. The full segment will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET (Browning, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/11).
A Webcast of the presentation of the report is also available online.