November 30, 2011: Nine-year-old Prisca is the fifth of six children. When she was three she lost her father, a Tanzanian truck driver who died of HIV/AIDS. A year later her mother succumbed to the same disease, leaving Prisca in the care of an uncle. He looked after her well. But when financial difficulties struck, he left the northern city of Arusha to find work in southern Tanzania, and remarried. He left Prisca in the care of his former wife, who mistreated her.
Prisca reads a book at the school library in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo by Mr. Kiros Aregawi and Ms. Mariantonietta Peru
Prisca is one of more than 15 million children around the globe who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Like Prisca, the majority of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
AIDS’s devastation on innocent children like Prisca reminds us why World AIDS Day, held on December 1, is so important. More than 25 million people have died from HIV/AIDS between 1981 and 2007. An estimated 33.3 million people are infected with the virus. World AIDS Day aims to educate the public about the virus and encourage people to help those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.
AIDS prevention and the protection of AIDS orphans is a major focus of SOS Children’s Villages around the world, especially in hardest-hit Africa.
The SOS Approach to HIV/AIDS
AIDS is responsible for a high percentage of the unaccompanied children who arrive in SOS Children’s Villages. Boys and girls whose lives are eroded by AIDS may not only be left parentless and deprived of love and guidance. They also face discrimination and lack of food and shelter. They may be HIV-positive themselves but lack access to adequate health care. Girls are often forced to drop out of school to care for ill family members. At SOS we help children whose futures are at risk due to HIV/AIDS.
Our HIV/AIDS work has several priorities -- teaching awareness and prevention, offering voluntary counseling and testing, keeping families intact by supporting orphan-headed households and those where children are living with terminally ill parents (our goal is to support ten children living in the community outside the SOS Children’s Village for each child living in our Villages), providing anti-retroviral treatment to parents, and, as a last resort, raising children whose families cannot care for them.
A decade ago we started modestly by sending nurses to visit child-headed families. Today, in Africa alone, we reach hundreds of thousands of AIDS-affected children through our family and social support programs. We also carry out AIDS education campaigns in our schools, vocational training centers, and clinics. These programs reach more and more families every year.
Rescuing Prisca - An AIDS Orphan
Prisca with her foster parent, Catherine, and family.
Absent though Prisca’s uncle was, he sought an opportunity for her to be admitted to the day care that is part of the SOS Family Strengthening Program. After her uncle's wife continued to abuse her, SOS conducted an investigation that led to Prisca’s placement with a warm caregiver, a stable and loving neighbor named Catherine.
Prisca now feels secure, loved, and cared for. “She loves to smile,” says Catherine. Her ambition is to become a nurse or a teacher when she grows up. The caring environment at the Family Strengthening Program “changed her completely,” says Catherine. “I now see a bright future for her.”
Help SOS carve out more bright futures for children like Prisca. Make a donation today.