Other environmental risks
Infectious and parasitic diseases remain the major killers of children in the developing world, partly as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to estimates by UNAIDS and WHO, more than four million children under the age of 15 have been infected with HIV since the epidemic began. An estimated 700 000 children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV in 2003 and an estimated 500 000 children died from AIDS in the same year (UNAIDS/WHO 2003). More than 90% of them were infants born to HIV-positive mothers who acquired the virus before or during birth or through breastfeeding.
Because HIV infection often progresses quickly to AIDS in children, most of the children under 15 who have been infected have developed AIDS, and most of these children have died. Another 13 million children have lost their mother or both parents to the disease ( See CAH website).
Orphans from AIDS
AIDS orphans, defined as children who have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS before reaching the age of 15, are predicted to number 41 million worldwide by 2010. Approximately 8.2 million children around the world have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The extended family system, which would traditionally provide support for orphans, is greatly strained in communities most affected by AIDS. Adult death from AIDS within a household leads to loss of income which in turn leads to children dropping out of school to look for work to survive or caring for other family members. Nine out of ten (90%) maternal orphans are presently living in sub Saharan Africa. Orphans and orphan care is a critical issue and there is need for short-term and long-term orphan care interventions.
UNAIDS/WHO 2003 AIDS epidemic update: December 2003. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS/WHO).