African Governments Need To Do More To Ensure AIDS Orphans’ Education, Well-Being, Report Says
African governments need to do more to ensure that millions of children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS have access to education and are not exploited, according to a Human Rights Watch report released on Monday, London's Times reports (Clayton, Times, 10/11). About 12 million children on the continent are HIV-positive, have parents with the disease, or have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS, according to the report. Approximately four million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa currently are not attending school, the report says (Robertson, VOA News, 10/10). Many children have to drop out of school to generate income for their siblings, while others stay home to care for HIV-positive family members, according to the report (Zavis, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). As children are deprived of education and fall further into poverty, studies suggest that they are more likely to contract HIV (Times, 10/11). "It is part of the cruel logic of the AIDS epidemic that when parents become sick or die, it reduces their children's access to education, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to HIV. Governments must do far more to break this cycle," the report says. It adds that HIV-positive children are missing school because of illness, poor access to treatment or fear of being stigmatized (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). The 57-page report is based on interviews conducted in June with 62 children and 49 nongovernmental organizations in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/10).
Uganda's Information Minister James Nsaba Buturo said that although he acknowledges the problems highlighted in the report, HRW should recognize that African governments face financial constraints (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/10). However, Jonathan Cohen, HRW HIV/AIDS program coordinator and one of the report's authors, said that African governments are failing to address the issue of AIDS orphans because they lack the political will, not resources (VOA News, 10/10). "Governments bear the ultimate responsibility to protect children when their parents no longer can," Cohen said. The report calls on governments to improve community organizations and foster care programs to address the issue (Reuters, 10/10). The governments of the three countries included in the report currently rely on extended families, faith-based organizations and other groups to care for orphans (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/10).