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BACKGROUND: AIDS Orphans and Vulnerable Children
  • There are more than 143 million orphans living throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Of this number, approximately 16.2 million children were identified as double orphans, i.e., having lost both parents, the vast majority of whom died of AIDS. According to a joint report of UNAIDS and UNICEF released in July 2004, every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS worldwide. Today there are about 15 million children orphaned by AIDS; it is estimated that number will rise to 25 million by the year 2010.
  • Orphans are rarely able to attend school because many cannot afford school fees or are forced to financially support their families or care for sick relatives. These children are much more vulnerable to exploitation, including forced labor and physical and sexual abuse.
  • Many analysts consider the orphans’ crisis a security threat because children without hope are more likely to be recruited by militias, rebel armies, and terrorists.
  • The denial of basic education to orphans and vulnerable children disproportionately affects girls, further exacerbating the strength and capacity of cultures for human development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
  • H.R. 1409 is bi-partisan legislation that builds on the commitment of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief “PEPFAR” to supporting orphan and vulnerable children (OVC), by providing a comprehensive response to the ever-growing number of orphaned children around the globe.
  • H.R. 1409 expands the capacity of communities to take care of the basic needs of orphans. The bill also promotes school nutrition, culturally appropriate psychosocial support, and protection of orphan’s inheritance rights.
  • This legislation expands access to education by providing support for the abolition of government-imposed school fees and tariffs which act as barriers to education. When Kenya abolished school fees in early 2003, 1.3 million children entered school for the first time, a 22 percent increase in enrollment. Similar leaps have been seen with the abolition of school fees in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda.
  • The bill also assures pediatric treatment for orphans and vulnerable children in order to promote normal growth and healthy development and bring new hope to infants affected with AIDS.
  • Legislation similar to H.R. 1409 passed the House unanimously last year but fell narrowly short of Senate passage. In order to assure that the bill is considered on a fast track this year, members of the House must be urged to add their name to the bipartisan list of cosponsors for the bill.
  • The Episcopal Church’s 2003 General Convention passed resolution D054 urging the U.S. to back a comprehensive response to the HIV/AIDS crisis worldwide. Additionally, resolution D006 from 2003 calls on the Church to support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) including the push for universal primary education.

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