November 10, 2005

More than 600.000 aids orphans by 2010, warns minister

Minister of Women's Affairs and Social Welfare, Virgilia Matabele, has warned that, on current trends, the number of children in the country who have lost one or both their parents to AIDS will rise to 600.000 by 2010. The latest statistics on HIV prevalence among Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 years gives a national average of 16.2 per cent. But in central Mozambique 20.4 per cent of people in that age bracket are HIV-positive, while in one central province, Sofala, the figures rises to over 26 per cent. Matabele pointed to the "feminisation" of the epidemic.
Around 60 per cent of the Mozambicans living with HIV/AIDS are women, and 40 per cent of the infected women are living in the central region. It is thought that 130.000 Mozambican teenagers (aged between 15 and 19) are HIV-positive, and 75 per cent of these youngsters are girls. Dealing with this situation required a wide range of activities, said Matabele, to halt the spread of infection, particularly among young people, to prevent "vertical transmission" (from HIV-positive mothers to their babies), to provide anti-retroviral treatment to infected women and children, and to protect orphaned and vulnerable children.
As for vertical transmission, Matabele said about 35.000 babies were born annually carrying the HIV virus, and that currently about 140.000 pregnant women are HIV-positive. She added that over 5,.000 pregnant women have received anti- retroviral treatment, and over 3.000 new born infants have been treated with the anti-retroviral drug nevirapine, known to reduce dramatically the chances of vertical transmission.
"When children are orphaned, after their parents have died of AIDS, they become the responsibility of foster families, which are overburdened", said Matabele. Such children and such families needed to be assisted through professional training and income generation schemes. There were also serious problems concerning the inheritance due to children whose parents die of AIDS and the fate of women whose husbands fall victim to the disease. Matabele warned that when men die of AIDS there is a serious danger of violence against their widows, who are forced to abandon the family home, making the survival of their children all the more difficult. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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