Any reduction in HIV prevalence can take as much as a decade to translate into lower AIDS-related death rates among parents because of the long time lag between infection and death. Consequently, orphan numbers will continue to rise even in countries where inroads are being made against HIV infection. In Uganda, for instance, HIV prevalence peaked in the late 1980s at 14 per cent and by 2001 had shrunk to 5 per cent, yet the number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS continued to rise until they were 14.6 per cent of all children in 2001. With this in mind, respecting the rights of children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS must remain an international priority for at least the next two decades. As for children caught up in conflict, respecting their rights entails strengthening the protective environment at every level.
Recognizing the urgent need to address the growing number of children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and meet the goals committed to by the international community in March 2004, the UNAIDS committee of co-sponsoring organizations formulated a comprehensive strategy for action on the following five fronts:
- Strengthen the capacity of families to protect and care for children by prolonging the lives of parents and providing economic, psychosocial and other support
- Mobilize and support community-based responses to provide both immediate and long-term support to vulnerable households
- Ensure access for orphans and other vulnerable children to essential services, including education, health care and birth registration
- Ensure that governments protect the most vulnerable children through improved policy and legislation and by channelling resources to communities
- Raise awareness at all levels through advocacy and social mobilization to create a supportive environment for all children affected by HIV/AIDS.