We at International Adoption Guide observe World AIDS Day and support and honour those who are living with HIV and AIDS and encourage them with the knowledge that we are doing everything in our power to ensure their children grow up in loving and stable homes.
As the battle to overcome this dreadful disease continues, millions of children are being made parentless and are looking into a bleak and scary future. It is estimated that more than 16 million children under 18 have been orphaned by AIDS, with more then 14 million of them in sub-Sarahan Africa.
When I visited Zimbabwe in April of this year I was shocked to see how 'empty' the country was. I cannot really put it in any other terms but the fact that it seemed like there was no one in the country. Travelling across the country fifteen years ago, you would always see people walking, or cycling along the road, no matter how far away your were from a town or village. I always used to wonder where the people came from and where were they going? But this year there was no one. For hours we would drive through a virgin land, no sign of human habitation at all. It was very eerie but then understandable when you read that 16% of children in Zimbabwe are orphaned by AIDS. That means that millions of people have died from this indiscriminate disease, shattering the extended family concept and leaving children to be bought up by their grandparents who can offer neither the energy or funds to support a child to fulfil their potential.And those are the lucky ones.
Orphanages are full and have to turn children away. There are too few projects and intiatives to cater for the increasing demand and no active programme has been put in place to secure that these children are able to find loving and stable homes. Thus, they are left on the streets to defend for themselves. Here they vulnerable and unable to secure the basics of food and education and thus a generation is growing up malnurished, marginalised, uneducated, stigmatised and psychologically damaged. Across the world other nations children suffer the same fate and the silent epidemic continues unnoticed and forever increasing.
Simon, on the right, is lucky. His mother and father both were taken by AIDS and he is being bought up by his unmarried Uncle who is able, at the moment, to afford the retro-virus drugs to tackle the disease passed on from his mother. Simon has spent 7 years in hospitals and although he is now 16 he acts and behaves more like a 12 year old. But he is alive and is funny and brings great joy to those who know him. We do not know for how much longer this will last. As an orphan he has 'orphan status' and thus is eligible for government sponsored anti retrovirus drugs but it is one thing offering such a service but it is another thing trying to access it. A gentle neighbour has been trying for three years to get him onto the programme. She says this needs to be done as a matter of the highest priority, as she has just heard that his Uncle is ill and may not survive the next two years and then there will be no one to provide for the drugs and Simon too will fall to the disease. Another number in the tens of millions.
So what hope for these children? Adoption is a real and positive choice for them. Without the extended families to support them, these children need to get orphan status as soon as possible so that new families can be found for them. If there are no families in their country willing to take them then it must go to international adoption. It is our responsibilty to look after children in need, be they within these borders or not. International adoption is one way to ensure that these children have a positive and optimistic future.