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House International Relations Committee Holds Hearing on HIV/AIDS Orphans in Africa

On April 17, the House International Relations Committee held a hearing on HIV/AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children in Africa. Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-IL) said that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has received its proper focus as a “humanitarian, national security, and developmental crisis” in part because of the support of many members of Congress. He also highlighted the Global Access to HIV/AIDS Prevention, Awareness, Education, and Treatment Act (H.R. 2069) that the House passed last year in an effort to address both bilateral and multilateral responses to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Dr. E. Anne Peterson of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) stressed that “reducing the vast numbers of, and providing care and support to children made vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS will require action from communities at all levels–global, regional, national, and local.” She noted that USAID has more than 60 projects in 22 countries working with children affected by HIV/AIDS, and last year, approximately $20 million was used for these children to expand existing activities and initiate new ones. According to Dr. Peterson, USAID promotes five strategies to best protect and care for children living with the disease. These strategies include:

  • Strengthening the capacity of families to cope;
  • Mobilizing and strengthening community-based responses;
  • Strengthening the capacity of children and young people to meet their own needs;
  • Ensuring that the government protects the most vulnerable children and provides essential services; and
  • Creating an enabling environment for affected children and families.

 

Kevin Casey of World Vision International said that in Africa, HIV/AIDS is “not just an epidemic, it is an inter-generational pandemic.” He added that approximately 28 million people in Africa are living with HIV/AIDS, including 6.5 million children who have the disease. Mr. Casey also noted that faith-based organizations and community-based organizations as well as national and local governments need to be “strengthened to address the pandemic and its impacts on children.”

Laelia Zoe Gilborn of the Population Council also stressed the importance of community interventions for HIV/AIDS-affected children. She noted that community programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS have been successful, especially when “ongoing care and support” for both the mother and child continues after pregnancy and delivery.

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