Pretoria (Fides Service) - AIDS has produced 12 million orphans in Africa, half of them aged 10 to 14. It is estimated that by 2010, because of HIV/AIDS 20 million children under 15 will have lost one or both parents. Three quarters of people in the world with HIV/AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa where at the end of 2002 more than 29 million had been infected by the virus including 10 million children, 3 million of them under 15. In 2002 alone in this region about 2 million adults died of AIDS. 8 out of every 10 AIDS orphans in the world live here. This is an extremely alarming phenomenon considering that between 1990 and 2001 the proportion of parents who died of AIDS increased 10 times from 3.5% to 32%. Countries which will have the highest number of orphans Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland are those with a highest percentage of AIDS over 30%. In these three countries and in Zimbabwe more than one child in every five will be orphaned by 2010.
Among the causes, dramatic economic crises, inadequate government structures and attitudes of prejudice and rejection with regard to HIV/AIDS.
The local Church and other religious bodies are increasingly committed to working to assist persons with HIV/AIDS in this the most affected region. At a Conference on Care of Orphans and vulnerable children, last November at Sizanani Conference Centre di Gauteng in South Africa, attended by 185 delegates from 12 Sub-Saharan African countries it emerged that the AIDS Office of the Southern African Bishops Conference collects funds for diocesan and parish projects; promotes formation and exchange; improves existing programmes; sets new programmes in poor areas; monitors and evaluates aid distributed. One absolute priority is protection and support of most vulnerable children, particularly those with HIV/AIDS and/or other illnesses. (AP) (3/4/2004 Agenzia Fides)