According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) 2006 Report, “the only evidence of declining national adult HIV prevalence in southern Africa comes from Zimbabwe, where both HIV prevalence and incidence has fallen.” However, this says nothing of the thousands of children within Zimbabwe who live each day with HIV/AIDS.
Only 1 in 7 Zimbabwean adults who desperately need anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV infection can access them. This may seem horrendous, but for the children of Zimbabwe living with HIV it is even worse. Only 1 in 16 children with HIV have access to life-prolonging drugs. Approximately 160,000 children in the country are living with HIV, and many of them have also lost parents to the disease.
However, there is hope. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is embarking on a massive program to improve the health, education, protection and nutrition of the country’s orphans and vulnerable children. This is all part of the Government of Zimbabwe’s National Plan of Action (NPA) for orphans and vulnerable children.
In recent years, UNICEF has dramatically increased the reach of its HIV/AIDS programs as well as other programs to orphans in Zimbabwe, from 50,000 to 500,000 children. The ability of UNICEF’s services to assist Zimbabwean orphans has transpired thanks to the support of the UK Department for International Development and the Governments of Sweden, New Zealand, Germany and Australia.
The augmented support includes increasing school enrollment and birth registration for orphans and vulnerable children, supporting school nutrition programs, and improving access to health services and sanitation.
Although support to HIV/AIDS in Africa is increasing, AFJN continues to be concerned about the lack of availability of pediatric doses of antiretroviral drugs for children throughout the continent. This is an issue brought to the floor over the past year from programs including The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In Fact, on March 13, 2006 First Lady, Laura Bush announced a new public-private partnership for Pediatric AIDS treatment to be part of the PEPFAR program. Other programs who have expressed concern about pediatric doses of antiretroviral drugs are The World Bank, UNAIDS, and many more. AFJN will continue working to address this crisis and to spur such awareness into action.
By Barbie Fischer