AIDS Orphans in India - a growing crises
India today is home to the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world (UN statistics) and second only to South Africa in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. While the statistics on HIV infections in India is the subject of ongoing controversy, what is undeniable is that India is expected to become the next epic center of the AIDS orphan crises. The escalating AIDS crisis is leaving an unprecedented number of children orphaned with little or no adult protection and care. The proportion of orphaned children is expected to double in the next five years and remain exceptionally high until 2020 or 2030.
The odds against AIDS-orphaned children are staggering. These children are vulnerable to a number of risks:
Children in HIV/AIDS-affected households begin to suffer even before a parent or caregiver has died.
- Social exclusion and economic deprivation - AIDS orphans are often shunned by their communities; many are denied property rights and rights to inheritance.
- Illiteracy, malnutrition and exploitation.
- They are also at increased risk of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases, facing sexual abuse and drug use, with many young girls turning to prostitution in order to survive.
- The threats and challenges these children face is compounded by the emotional trauma of losing parents and the stigma associated with the disease, which marks them out as a new class of untouchables.
- Those who cannot be taken in by relatives end up living on the streets.
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- Household income plummets.
- Schooling is often interrupted and many children are forced to drop out either to care for a sick parent or to earn money.
- Depression and alienation are common.
- Another worrying phenomenon is the emergence of child-headed households.
- With parents gone, children have to take on the responsibility of earning money, looking after younger siblings and running households.