World Vision is a Christian relief, development, and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. Part of its mandate is to explore the impact of the AIDS epidemic on children around the world, the role that children and communities can play in the response, and to leverage community level resources needed to do so.
This report entitled Will Universal Action Now Include Children? discusses the state of child health and the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on children worldwide. According to World Vision, “An estimated 2.5 million people – almost 7,000 people every day – were newly infected with HIV, and 2.1 million people died of AIDS in 2007. Of the new infections, almost 1,200 every day were in children aged 15 years and under.”
Responses to the needs and rights of children affected by HIV and AIDS has been progressing in recent years, particularly in providing antiretroviral treatment for children, preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (pMTCT), and supporting orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Nevertheless, children with HIV/AIDS continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the disease’s mpact. Whether psychologically as a result of living and caring for infected family members, or growing up as orphans – there are multiple ways in which HIV/AIDS leaves children increasingly vulnerable. Apart from the immediate or short term impact of growing up without parents, or homeless, children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS experience a wide and complex array of problems.
According to World Vision, children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS are less likely to be enrolled in school than those children who are notorphaned or made vulnerable, and are more likely to suffer from abuse, discrimination, and exploitation. As part of families who are infected, these children are often given immense responsibilities – working to earn income, often at the expense of attending school, or acting as caretakers for family members and parents. Apart from the millions of HIV infected children who will die from the epidemic, it seems that little attention is paid to the psychological and mental impact of their increased vulnerability.
The Hope Initiative explores the immediate impact of HIV/AIDS on children, the long term economic impact and its implications, ,It notes that AIDS is the single largest disease-related cause of death among 15-44 year olds in Asia, and will cause a total loss of 180 million years of “productive life” between 2002 and 2020. While such economic arguements are valid and important to advocate among the international donor community, the bottom line should remain that good health allows for better quality of life, fullfillment and wellbeing. This definition of health includes the psychological wellbeing of children and reduced vulnerability to health and disease.
An international concensus and action to address the impacts of HIV and AIDS on children has been building, but this report highlights the importance of community-based support and care for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. As part of its mandate, World Vision focuses on strengthening family and community care for orphans and vulnerable children, through support of Community Care Coalitions (CCC) that bring together churches and other faith cbased and religious ommunities, government, local business, and other NGOs.
In responding to the multifacetted pandemic of HIV/AIDS, all actors and facets of civil society must be engaged. World Vision highlights the crucial importance of community based care and support – particularly the changes that religiousand faith based organization coalitions can foster in society. While partnerships are clearly the way forward in the reponse to HIV/AIDS, there is also the need to focus on community leaders and women – who are often overlooked as vehicles of community and human development – particularly when it comes to addressing the needs of children.