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AIDS AND HIV in Sub-Saharan African countries

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According to UN report (2008), African Sub-Saharan countries are heavily affected by HIV AND AIDS. An estimated 22 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2007 and approximately 1.9 million additional people were infected with HIV during that year. In just the past year, the AIDS epidemic in Africa has claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people in this region. More than eleven million children have been orphaned by AIDS. According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (2008), Prejudice against people living with HIV/AIDS makes them afraid to speak out and allows the disease to make its deadly impact around the globe (Ban Ki Moon-UN Secretary General). He stated that stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is the main reason too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment.

What is the impact of AIDS on Africa?

Children affected by AIDS shows how the AIDS epidemic continues to affect children disproportionately and in many harmful ways, making them more vulnerable than other children, leaving many of them orphaned, and threatening their survival (UNICEF, 2008).

·         According to Avert International (2008), the effect of the AIDS epidemic on households can be very severe. Many families are losing their income earners. In other cases, income earners are forced to stay at home to care for relatives who are ill from AIDS (AIDS & HIV, 2008). Many of those dying from AIDS have surviving partners who are themselves infected and in need of care. They leave behind orphans, grieving and struggling to survive without a parent's care.

UNAIDS worker with a child orphaned by AIDS (UN Photo)

  • In all affected countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is putting strain on the health sector. As the epidemic develops, the demand for care for those living with HIV rises, as does the number of health workers affected.
  • Schools are heavily affected by HIV/AIDS. This a major concern, because schools can play a vital role in reducing the impact of the epidemic, through education and support (Avert International, 2008).

·         According to the United Nations report (2001). Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the worst affected region in the world. An estimated 28.1 million Africans were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2001. Among them, an estimated 2.4 million children under 15 years were living with HIV/AIDS, largely due to mother-to-child transmission. Since the beginning of the epidemic and by the end of 2001, a cumulative 19 million people have already died of AIDS - over three times the number of AIDS deaths in the rest of the world. Moreover, on the continent in 2001, two million more women than men carry HIV and some 13 million children have lost their mother or both parents to the epidemic.

·         The region is experiencing diverse epidemics in terms of scale and maturity. HIV prevalence rates have risen to alarming levels in parts of southern Africa. In several southern African countries, at least one in five adults is HIV positive. Adult prevalence rates rise as high as 20% in Namibia and Zambia, 24% in Lesotho, 25% in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, and almost 36% in Botswana. In East Africa - Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, for example - prevalence rates are still in double digits. In West Africa, at least five countries - Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo - are experiencing serious epidemics, with adult HIV prevalence exceeding 5% (UNAIDS, 2001).

·         Women and girls are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and are disproportionately affected by the epidemic. In rural areas, as in cities, the epidemic further adds to the already formidable burdens women bear-as workers, caregivers, educators and mothers.

Emotional impact

Jo Stein (2003) and Subbarao and Coury (2004) stated that Children whose parents are living with HIV often experience many negative changes in their lives and can start to suffer neglect, including emotional neglect, long before they are orphaned. Eventually, they suffer the death of their parent(s) and the emotional trauma that results. They may then have to adjust to a new situation, with little or no support, and may suffer exploitation and abuse.

Empowerment for children

If AIDS orphans are as active members of the community rather than just victims, their lives can be given purpose and dignity. Many children already function as heads of households and as caregivers. They are a vital part of the solution and should be supported in planning and carrying out efforts to lessen the impact of AIDS in their families and communities.


Children orphaned due to AIDS may face exploitation in other areas of their lives as well. For instance, evidence suggests that there is a relationship between AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa and increased child-labour (UNAIDS (2006).


A member of the community takes care of children orphaned by AIDS,  > learn more


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