They cry and yearn to be held, but there are not enough arms to hold them. Many of them have watched their parents die. Some have parents who are too sick to care for them. But all of them want the same thing—to be loved and to know that they matter.
They are just like you and me, but they are the tiniest victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Some, like their parents, are HIV positive. Others are considered lucky and have escaped infection. All are residing in an orphanage with a future that is uncertain.
How do I know what an AIDS orphan wants and needs? Because on a hot August Day in 2008, I stood inside an orphanage that houses orphans affected by HIV/AIDS and I held my son for the first time. So it should come as no surprise that tomorrow, on World AID Day, I will join millions of people around the globe to unite in the fight against AIDS.
World AIDS Day aims to educate, inform and empower people to join the effort to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic.According to UNAIDS, more than 34 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS and a staggering 3.3 million of them are under the age of 15. The HIV/AIDS epidemic claims the lives of 1.7 people each year. With 2.5 million new infections occurring annually, the epidemic is far from over.
But there is hope.
A recent study known as HPTN 052 has revealed that antiretroviral treatment not only improves the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS, but can reduce transmission of the virus by 96%. This means we can keep those affected by HIV healthy and at the same time, prevent the spread of the disease.
But 7 million HIV positive people worldwide still lack access to antiretroviral treatment, meaning the virus is still spreading. One area where antiretroviral treatment is critical, but often lacking in developing nations, is transmission of HIV from mother to child. The HIV virus can be transmitted to an infant during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding and without proper medical intervention, the transmission rate is between 15-45%. UNICEF states that more than 1,000 infants are born with HIV each day. If they do not receive medication, most will die by age two.
Those numbers are enough to discourage even the most hopeful optimistic. But the truth is that the end of AIDS can become a reality. Through programs like The Global Fund, which was created to increase resources to fight HIV/AIDS and direct those resources to the areas of greatest need, the end really is in sight.
Until that time, there are things we can all do to not only support those living with HIV/AIDS, but to help stop the spread of the virus. In particular, there are many things we can do to help support the tiniest victims—the children who are born into the epidemic. I have listed several organizations below to help get you started.
AHOPE for Children: a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve the children of Ethiopia, with a primary emphasis on caring for orphans infected with HIV.
Project Hopeful: a 501(c)3 not for profit organization whose mission is to educate, encourage and enable families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with HIV/AIDS.
If you’d like to learn more about advocating for HIV/AIDS funding and support, check out RESULTS, a nonprofit, grassroots citizen’s lobby working to create the political will to end the worst aspects of poverty.
On this World AIDS Day, consider taking a few moments to support the fight against AIDS. As global citizens, this epidemic affects us all. Your voice matters!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Tennessee, Lauren.
The image used in this post from the World Aids Day website and it was specifically labeled for media use.