World News and Trends: AIDS epidemic orphans 11 million

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AIDS epidemic orphans 11 million

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The UN defines an AIDS orphan as a child of 15 or younger who has lost a mother or both parents to the disease. In some African nations as many as one in 10 children are AIDS orphans. In comparison, before the AIDS epidemic about 2 percent of children in poorer countries were orphans.

Some 95 percent of AIDS orphans live in sub-Saharan African nations. In pre-AIDS days extended-family networks assumed care for orphaned family members. Now, however, "the traditional African extended family is breaking down under the unprecedented burden of the pandemic," said the report.

Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, the UN program on AIDS, said that orphans are "the most forgotten aspect of the AIDS epidemic." Left to themselves, many roam the streets or end up as child laborers, becoming "prime targets for gangs, militia and creating more child armies like those that participated in massacres in Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa." (Source: The New York Times.)