/** headlines: 189.0 **/
** Topic: AIDS Turning Africa into Continent of Orphans **
** Written 7:40 AM Jul 10, 1997 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 2:41 PM Jul 9, 1997 by DEBRA@OLN.comlink.apc.org in hrnet.children */
/* ---------- "Africa: AIDS Turning Africa into Co" ---------- */
Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
## author : sidahmed@EMIRATES.NET.AE
## date : 29.06.97
BRUSSELS, Belgium, 27 June 1997 (Reuter): The United Nations warned Friday...Africa was in danger of becoming a continent of orphans unless swift action was taken to control the spread of the deadly virus that leads to AIDS.
...Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the U.N. organization set up to fight Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, said millions of children were at risk themselves from the disease.
"Over 1,000 children are infected every day,'' he said at the launch of the U.N's "Children living in a world with AIDS'' campaign. "Millions of children are affected, infected or vulnerable to AIDS.''
Piot said conservative estimates suggested...by mid-1996, more than nine million children under 15 had lost their mothers to AIDS -- more than 90 percent of them from sub-Saharan Africa.
But statistics show...millions more parents are carriers of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which leads to AIDS, indicating millions of children will be orphaned in the next few years.
Elizabeth Mataka, Executive Director of Zambia's Family Health Trust, said AIDS had already dramatically changed the traditional way of life in her country.
"When I was growing up, my aunts and my uncles were like spare parents,'' she said. "These days, there is hardly anyone who doesn't have an aunt or an uncle dead from AIDS.''
Piot said the new campaign would focus on better programs to prevent HIV infection, providing better access to children for treatment and educating children on HIV and AIDS risks.
But he admitted...UNAIDS and other organizations faced searching dilemmas on how to prevent HIV spreading further -- particularly regarding breast feeding.
More than 90 percent of children under 15 who become infected with HIV are infected by their mothers, he said, either during pregnancy, during the bloody trauma of birth or from breastfeeding.
But in areas where HIV prevalence is high and there is limited access to testing, should mothers be discouraged from breast-feeding their infants?
"It would be totally wrong to stop breast-feeding altogether,'' Piot said. "Breast-feeding saves lives, but on the other hand there is hard evidence...it also spreads the disease. What we need is more testing.''
"Having worked so hard to encourage breast-feeding over the years, it would be totally wrong to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Breast-feeding is not only good, it's cheaper.''
The other dilemma surrounds recent research which shows that when pregnant HIV-positive women are given an intensive treatment of so-called anti-AIDS drugs such as AZT, the chances of the child being infected are dramatically reduced.
...Mataka said the costs of such regimens were way beyond the reach of most families in Africa.
Piot said even children who escaped contracting AIDS were trapped in a vicious circle of infection.
"When a child is orphaned it becomes vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In Asia there are thousands of orphaned children forced into commercial sex work who have since become HIV positive themselves.''