The AIDS toll on children

Here are a few staggering facts that Ann M. Veneman, the United Nations Children’s Fund executive director, tossed out this week hoping to shake the world out of its complacency:

  • “Every minute of every day, a child dies because of AIDS.”
  • “Every day, there are nearly 1,800 new HIV infections among children under 15.”
  • “Today, an estimated 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.”
  • “Less than 10 percent of pregnant women are offered services to prevent transmission to their infants.”
  • “Less than 10 percent of children who have lost parents or who have been made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS get needed support or assistance.”
  • “Less than 5 percent of children in need of treatment for HIV/AIDS receive it.”

The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan added that “youth make up half of all new HIV infections worldwide, with a young person contracting the disease every 15 seconds.”

Mr. Annan and Unicef’s Ms. Veneman provided these statistics as they announced a new campaign that focuses on giving children living with the HIV virus a greater chance for survival while also trying to slow the rate of infection in that age group.

“Twenty-five years into the pandemic, this very visible disease continues to have an invisible face … a missing face … a child’s face,” said Ms. Veneman. “They are missing parents … missing teachers … missing treatment and care … missing protection … missing many things … except for the devastating effects of this disease.”

A harsh reality that Lives in Focus contrasts here with photographs of HIV+ orphans who are receiving treatment and care…receiving protection… receiving an education… receiving the things that should be every child’s birthright.

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