Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The global response to children with AIDS

In the global response to HIV/AIDS the needs of children have often been neglected, according to a new study on the subject.

The study on the needs of children with AIDS was conducted by a coalition called the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS. The group is made up of scientists, activists, policymakers and more.

Some of the findings from the report show that families often do not receive help with the costs of AIDS treatment. The study also explains the barriers that poverty puts up when trying to find treatment.

From the Voice of America, reporter Joe DeCapua unpacks the report for us. An audio file of his story is also available to listen to.

A co-chair of the alliance is Jim Yong Kim, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

"So, what did we find when we looked at how children are faring in this epidemic? Statistics show that, one, over 90 percent of the more than two million children living with HIV are infected before or during birth. Yet, only one in three pregnant women with HIV in low and middle-income countries gets the treatment they need to help prevent infection of their babies. And still, only a very small proportion of children living with HIV receive the life-saving anti-retroviral treatments," he says.

What's more, fewer than 10 percent of children born to HIV-positive women are tested for the AIDS virus before they're two months old.

The report also finds that most children labeled AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa actually have a surviving parent or other family member willing to care for them. But those potential caregivers often lack the basic resources to give the children what they need.

Kim says, "Resources, though, are currently not reaching the families that need them. And in the most severely affected region families and communities pay 90 percent of the financial cost of caring for children affected by the epidemic with little or no assistance from government."

Extreme poverty is blamed for blocking their access to AIDS-related programs, with over 60 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa living in poverty.

Kim says, "In countries in which HIV is endemic, the disease impoverishes entire communities. When we make relief too narrowly AIDS specific, we miss a large portion of children impoverished by the epidemic. In fact, only providing benefits for people living with HIV or with family members, who are living with or die from HIV, is probably counterproductive. It can create stigmatization and abuse for those in need of help."

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