Today, December 1, is the United Nations’ World AIDS Day which this year, the theme is: END INEQUALITIES. END AIDS. END PANDEMICS.
World AIDS Day is organized through UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, to highlight the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world.
In her World AIDS Day 2021 message, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima noted that “This year the world agreed on a bold plan that, if leaders fulfill it, will end AIDS by 2030. That’s so exciting.
“But today we, as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, issue a stark warning. AIDS remains a pandemic, the red light is flashing, and only by moving fast to end the inequalities that drive the pandemic can we overcome it.”
While many Americans believe that the “AIDS crisis” is over, an estimated 37.7 million people around the globe are living with HIV, 1.5 million became newly infected in 2020, and 680,000 people worldwide died last year from AIDS-related illnesses, according to the UNAIDS.
And of those, 1.7 million are children ranging in age from infants who were born with the virus to 14 years old, and 53 percent of people living with HIV are girls and women.
UNAIDS also points out that sub-Saharan Africa, where Bread and Water for Africa® supports children’s homes and provides hospitals and clinics with medicines, medical supplies and equipment, “is home to two-thirds of people living with HIV.
“But the COVID-19 vaccines that can protect them are not arriving fast enough. In July 2021, less than 3 percent of people in Africa had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine,” states the UNAIDS.
In addition, in 2020 39 percent of all new HIV infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, six in seven new HIV infections among adolescents aged 15-19 years are among girls. Young women aged 15-24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men. Around 4,200 adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years become infected with HIV every week. Women and girls accounted for 63 percent of all new HIV infections in 2020.
At the Kabwata Orphanage and Transit Center in Zambia, among the countries most hard hit by the continuing AIDS epidemic, founder and director Angela Miyanda provides care for dozens of the children who live there – many of whom have lost one or both of their parents to AIDS/HIV – and tragically some who were born with the virus.
Bread and Water for Africa® began our partnership with Angela in 1998 just one year after our incorporation to join forces to provide loving homes for children who have lost their parents in the AIDS-ravished country.
“I founded the Kabwata Transit Centre in response to the plight of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS,” Angela told us. “Quickly, however, that mission grew to include Lusaka’s orphaned street children, many also victims of HIV/AIDS.”
At the time, Angela reported that by many estimates Zambia has the highest proportion of orphaned children in the world, primarily due to HIV/AIDS. “The enormity of our HIV/AIDS crisis has stretched Zambia’s social fabric to the breaking point,” she said.
And while the deadly impact of HIV/AIDS is less in countries including Kenya and Zimbabwe, where our partners the Lewa Children’s Home and the Lerato Children’s Village provides housing and more for orphaned children, it still looms large over the countries.
And, to date, children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, still make up the largest number of those who have gone through Kabwata, and Angela notes that in its 20 years of existence they have lost 13 children, mostly due to HIV and AIDS.
“The oldest was 11 years old,” Angela said.
But Angela does not dwell on the those lost, but those who now have a great life and hope for the future.
“The greatest achievement we celebrate are the children who have made it and are able to fend for themselves,” she said. “I have had very wonderful people around, we cannot even claim that we have done it all by ourselves at the centre. It has been a collection of so many people. It is not me and myself but God.”