Why HIV & AIDS?
In the last three decades AIDS has killed over 35 million people worldwide and a further 36.7 million people are infected with HIV. Many more are affected by the epidemic, especially vulnerable children and orphans.
Widespread illness and death due to AIDS in the last three decades has left millions of families destitute, without the means to feed themselves properly, send their children to school, or access treatment and care. In addition, the persisting fear and stigma surrounding HIV & AIDS increases the isolation of those affected, often leading to denial. Despite all the recent advances in HIV prevention, care and treatment, children living in AIDS-affected households – including millions of orphans - still face overwhelming deprivation and disadvantage compared to their peers. Children, and especially young girls, remain the most vulnerable. The reality of AIDS is that its impact is not simply medical but affects all aspects of social and economic life for many years, even decades, after the infection has arrived.
Why Sub-Saharan Africa?
It is only in sub-Saharan Africa that HIV & AIDS became a pandemic affecting entire countries, crossing borders and impacting every level of society. 30 years on, 15 million orphaned children are left behind, and there are 25.5 million people still living with AIDS. They and their families often experience untold suffering.
of the world's population
of the world's people living with HIV
The Effect On Communities.
In sub-Saharan Africa over 50 million people have contracted AIDS since its inception. With some countries experiencing prevalence rates as high as 20% at various times, and within many families a third generation now living through the epidemic, scarcely anyone is unaffected by the disease. The devastating, long-term social and economic impact of the disease has ramifications across many sectors of society. Below are just a few of the many effects the epidemic continues to have on communities across sub-Saharan Africa.
The region's 15 million orphans due to AIDS have caused a restructuring of family units across the continent. Grandparents and other family members struggle to cope with the increased number of dependants.
The AIDS epidemic continues to put pressure on the health sector. In addition to the need for anti-retroviral therapy, HIV+ people are highly susceptible to opportunistic diseases such as TB and cholera.
Stigma & Denial
HIV+ people, and those affected by their diagnosis, such as orphans and vulnerable children sometimes experience negative attitudes and discrimination. Often, they will deny their status - to themselves and the wider community - worsening their prognosis and increasing the chance of passing on the infection.
HIV+ family members are unable to farm, or enter employment due to frequent illness, increasing the likelihood of malnutrition for the whole family.
HIV affected families are less likely to engage in economic activity, reducing their ability to meet basic household needs and depressing the wider economy.
As parents and care-givers fall ill children take on more responsibility to earn an income, produce food, and provide care for family members, leaving little time for school.
The Effect On Children.
Losing one or both parents to AIDS often leaves children unable to access food, shelter and education. The pressing need to support these children, and the on-going effects of AIDS on family dislocation, still present a problem in the communities of sub-Saharan Africa. The latest UNAIDS report estimates that specific interventions supporting vulnerable children and orphans will be vital for at least another two decades. Only in sub-Saharan Africa has a whole generation of children lived with HIV, many of whom were born with the disease. It is a testament to the power of the many local responses across the region that these children, now teenagers, can look forward to a productive life. A prospect which was previously unthinkable.
The responses to HIV & AIDS has illustrated the immense resilience of people across Africa, their ability to find a way forward often led by individuals with integrity, inspiration and unshakeable determination. Egmont's expertise lies in finding these people, and giving their activities financial and management support.