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The average per capita income in Kitui is less than €2 per day
 
 
 
 

AIDS Orphans in Kitui- Background Facts  

Estimates of the HIV Infected Population of Kitui/Mwingi

District

Urban- No. Infected

Rural- No. Infected

Total No. Infected

Prevalence

Kitui

546

14,169

14,715

6%

Mwingi

320

8,304

8,624

6%

Source: HIV/AIDS in Kenya 2001, booklet on the Estimated Prevalence of HIV in Kenya by District, 2001

 

Aids Orphans in Kitui

The National AIDS Control Council (NACC) in Kenya reported  in 2003 that the number of people infected with HIV/AIDS was 2.2 million, with 214,000 deaths among young adults die to AIDS. It was estimated that in the year 2000 there were 900,000 orphans due to HIV/AIDS deaths, expected to rise to 1.5 million by 2005. The UNAIDS and UNICEF publication “Children on The Brink, July 2002” reported that the total number of orphans  at that time was 1,659,000,  12.5% of the total number of children in Kenya. Almost 900,000 were AIDS orphans.  The effects of this epidemic on children who have lost parents due to AIDS are manifold. Aids orphans tend to drop out of school due to lack of financial and material support. They suffer discrimination, even by relatives and guardians, often being disinherited.
It is estimated that around 20% run away from guardians/relatives and resort to living in the streets of urban centres where they face higher risks of HIV/AIDS infection. Girls become more vulnerable to all kinds of abuse including engaging in survival sex, and up to  90% of the street children turn to drug abuse. A few fortunate orphans are adopted and supported by relatives and friends of departed parents. Many children are HIV positive, because pregnant women can pass on HIV infection in utero,  at the time of birth or through breastfeeding. Statistics indicate that about 30-40 percent of babies born to infected mothers will be infected. However, all children born to infected mothers are at risk of becoming orphans when their parents die of AIDS. Currently about 100,000 to 120,000 children under 5 years old are infected.  
   
The number of households headed by children is rising as more are orphaned through the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Should their parents die before them, then the children suffer double tragedy of being orphans and HIV positive. Orphans who are HIV positive are more vulnerable because of their health status. In addition to all other needs of other orphans, medical care and nutritional support is very essential, and these become the priorities.

There are no available statistics to show the life expectancy of HIV positive children.

Factors like medical care, nutrition, community support systems, disease prevalence in the area and the general environment where the child is living contribute largely to the health of the child . 

 

THE PROBLEMS FACED BY HIV/AIDS ORPHANS 
Losing a parent, and possibly being separated from brothers and sisters, is a stressful experience which may cause the orphaned child to lose hope in his/her future. There is added stress when the orphans know the cause of death of parents. The care givers also suffer as they try to hide the truth from the orphans. A common theme among adults facing the challenge of living with HIV/AIDS is the need to meet the challenge of stigma and discrimination by benefiting from mutual support. Orphans, especially where parents died of HIV/AIDS, worry about the future.  Excessive unresolved anxiety may trigger behaviour problems such as aggression, emotional withdrawal and other antisocial behaviour. Denial, fear and stigma compound the stress of families dealing with AIDS. Parents who have HIV/AIDS may not be able to deal with their children’s physical and emotional needs. Children on the other hand express their mixed feelings of grief, anger, fear and apprehension as they see parents weaken physically. By the time the parents succumb to death the children are already overwhelmed by the experience.

 

 After losing their parents, orphans invariably experience food insecurity, shortage of clothing and inability to pay for medical care.  Such insecurity could push them into child prostitution or into the streets. Orphans frequently fail to inherit their parent’s property which may be appropriated by relatives or other people. Part of the process of dealing with HIV/AIDS is to encourage infected parents to discuss their health status with their children, and make arrangements for their future.

Even outside of the HIV/AIDS issue, there is a serious problem of child labour in Kenya. When care-givers are short of resources, the orphans, and especially the girls, may be used to generate cash. Working for a wage exposes a child to economic and sexual risks.

Girls orphaned by AIDS may also be married off at an early age to relieve their families of financial burden. 

 

The chances for HIV/AIDS orphans going to school are reduced by the fact that those who are open to foster them are, in most cases, poor families who can hardly provide for their own families. Children may be required to work in the home or farm, tending stock or fetching water, when they should be attending school. Most Kenyans see schooling as the only way to improve their status. Fear of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWAs) is widespread, and communities react by isolating and discriminating against them and their children. Fear of being known to be having HIV and AIDS, is a powerful deterrent to people seeking voluntary testing and counselling and disclosing HIV positive status to family members and friends. Parents often fear informing their children of being HIV positive, which tends to increase children’s anxiety and fear of not knowing what is happening to their parents. 

Orphans are especially stigmatised by the mere fact that their parents died of AIDS. Consequently they are discriminated against with few people willing to associate with them. Continuous sensitisation and education is still very necessary in order to enhance the level of acceptance.

 

 
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