Five Myths and Realities About Children and HIV/AIDS; World AIDS Day - December 1

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HIV/AIDS is robbing children of their childhood. In recognition of World AIDS Day, December 1, Save the Children addresses some of the myths on HIV/AIDS by providing the reality for the more than 15 million children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS

Five Myths and Realities About Children and HIV/AIDS

Myth #1: HIV/AIDS affects adults, not children.

Reality: Last year, almost 500,000 children under age 15 died from AIDS. In addition, an estimated 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, and that number is expected to climb to 25 million by the end of the decade. As the number of young girls and women living with HIV/AIDS increases, so too does the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, which can occur during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Simple, inexpensive measures conducted as a woman enters labor, and within the first 72 hours of a baby's life, can reduce transmission of HIV from mother-to-child by more than 50 percent.

Myth #2: Children orphaned by AIDS live in orphanages.

Reality: Only a small minority of these children lives in orphanages, and orphanages cannot solve the rapidly growing problem. In many countries, there is a strong culture and tradition of family and community. Most of the children orphaned by AIDS in Africa remain in their villages among family and friends who do their best to support and care for them. But these children are often discriminated against and have to fend for themselves. As parents get sick and die of AIDS, family burdens shift to children. Children - particularly girls - are often forced to leave school to earn money, procure food, and care for the ill or their siblings.

Myth #3: The effect of the HIV/AIDS crisis on children is confined to Africa.

Reality: While the large majority of the children orphaned and affected by AIDS live in Africa - nearly 13 million - the crisis has also destabilized and further impoverished families in Asia and the Caribbean, leaving children without the care and support they need to survive and thrive. Greater attention must also be given to these regions now, not later.

Myth #4: Only high-tech and high-cost solutions can make a difference in the lives of children orphaned or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Reality: The solutions themselves are not complex or expensive, but the number of children in need is great and growing. By working with communities, local governments and nongovernmental organizations, we can support these children by helping them stay in school and learn income-earning skills. We also can ensure they get adequate protection, food and health care, and support to cope with the grief and trauma of losing one or both parents to AIDS.

Myth #5: As a practical matter, there is little that the United States can do to help children affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Reality: When Congress appropriated $2.4 billion to combat HIV/AIDS in the developing world in FY2004, approximately ten percent of these funds were dedicated to helping children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS. Children are already benefiting from these efforts. For example, in Mozambique, Save the Children is using a portion of these funds to provide community-based child care for children age 3 to 5 who have been orphaned or affected by AIDS. At these centers, affected children can learn basic literacy skills, receive a nutritious meal, and play together with other children without feeling stigmatized. But, the amount of funding appropriated for these child-focused programs is not equal to the needs of children affected by HIV/AIDS, which are growing dramatically.

Save the Children Experts Available for Interviews

Stacy Rhodes, Director, HIV/AIDS Unit - oversees Save the Children's HIV/AIDS prevention programs, and programs for children orphaned by AIDS. Rhodes guides policy and advocacy efforts on HIV/AIDS, mobilizes resources and designs and implements global programs.

Chloe O’Gara, Director of Education - is an international education professional with expertise in basic and early childhood education, AIDS, gender and nutrition. O’Gara has had field experience in more than 50 countries of Africa, Central, South Asia and Latin America.

Dr. Angela Wakhweya, HIV/AIDS Advisor - provides technical leadership for Save the Children's programs for children orphaned and affected by AIDS. Dr. Wakhweya has recently completed work on the national policy and strategic program plan of interventions for orphans and vulnerable children for the government of Uganda.

Overview of Save the Children’s Programs on HIV/AIDS:

Save the Children is fighting HIV/AIDS on two fronts: helping communities provide care and support for the children, families and communities affected by HIV/AIDS; and preventing new HIV infections, especially among youth and others at high risk of infection. The organization has HIV/AIDS programs in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Republic of Georgia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Uganda and Vietnam.

For interviews, contact:

Eileen Burke,, 203-221-4233

Colleen Barton Sutton,, 202-261-4694

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Colleen Barton
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