HIV / AIDS and children


What parliamentarians can do about HIV/AIDS



HIV/AIDS - The picture

© UNICEF/MOZA/00053/G.Pirozzi

The first case of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed in 1986 in Mozambique. This was followed by a steady increase in the prevalence rate up to an estimated 16.2% among the population aged 15 to 49 years in 2004. In July 2004, the Government declared HIV/AIDS a national emergency.

The epidemic has reduced life expectancy from 41 years in 1999 to 38.1 years in 2004. On average, 500 new infections occur every day, 90 of them among young children through mother-to-child transmission. Approximately 1.6 million Mozambicans are living with HIV or AIDS, more than 90,000 of them are children under 15 years of age.

The majority of those infected are women. Due to the imbalance of social, sexual and physical power women often have no chance to insist in safe sex.

Approximately 1.6 million Mozambicans are living with HIV or AIDS, more than 90,000 of them are children under 15 years of age. Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable. In the age groups 15-19 years and 20-24 years, their prevalence rate is three times higher than that of boys and young men. In 2004, HIV/AIDS prevalence was 2.6% among 15-19 year old boys and 6.9% among 20-24 year-old men compared to 8.1% and 20.9% among girls and women of those age groups.

Prevalence is much higher in the central provinces of Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia, with Sofala having the highest rate of 26.5% (2002). The central region hosts the transport corridors from neighboring countries to the ports of Nacala and Beira.

Due to the rapid spread, AIDS has become an important under-lying cause of illness and death among children.  In 2003, a total of 16,200 children under five years of age were estimated to have died as a consequence of AIDS.

Among adults, it is estimated that AIDS now accounts for almost 25% of all deaths recorded. This has led to an orphan crisis of alarming dimensions.  Out of almost 1.6 million orphaned children in Mozambique, around 325,000 have lost their mother, father or both parents due to AIDS. Their number will continue to increase dramatically and will reach approximately 626,000 by the year 2010.

Traditionally, orphaned children have been absorbed into extended family networks. But HIV/AIDS is now placing greater stress on the already overburdened safety nets at community and family levels. A study carried out by the Government and UNICEF in 2004 showed that only 12.5% of the households with orphaned and vulnerable children had received any form of assistance.  Half of the families were female-headed and a fifth were headed by elderly caregivers. School attendance among orphaned children is also considerably lower. In many cases, children have to drop out of school to work or to care for younger siblings, once their parents get sick or die.

In addition to these direct consequences, the effects of HIV/AIDS threaten the realisation of child rights indirectly. Health and education services lose skilled staff, because teachers, doctors, nurses, farmers and community social workers are all succumbing to the disease. Orphaned children are also more at risk of being commercially exploited, with many girls being forced into the sex industry.



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