Increasing Problem of AIDS Orphans Requires Action at All Levels, Opinion Piece Says
The increasing number of children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses is a "serious consequence of the AIDS epidemic" that must be addressed at all levels of government, Cesar Chelala, an international public health consultant and the author of "AIDS: A Modern Epidemic," states in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. More than 13 million children under age 15, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, are thought to have already lost at least one parent to the disease, and the number of AIDS orphans in Asia, particularly in China, is rising as well, Chelala says, noting that already "in absolute numbers there are more AIDS orphans in Asia than in Africa." If this trend continues, countries with large numbers of AIDS orphans, who tend to be "malnourished and unschooled" and at greater risk for HIV infection, will be "permanently crippled in terms of their own ability to grow, to integrate with the global society and to make their countries work," according to USAID senior adviser Nils Daulaire, Chelala writes. Several steps must be taken at all levels of government in order to address the issue of AIDS orphans, Chelala states. First, officials at the local level must help "[s]trengthen the capacity of extended families to protect and care for orphans." They must also "[m]obilize community-based responses that address children's special needs," he says. Central governments must take steps to "recognize the orphan and his or her special needs under the law, to ensure that orphans have full rights to education, and to develop labor policies that make it easier for extended family members to get work," he adds. "Such moves are critical to ensure the health and well-being of orphaned children," Chelala concludes, adding, "Their future, and the future of their societies, is at stake" (Chelala, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.