By Evangelos Koulis, Analyst KEDISA
Since the discovery of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1981, more than 60 million people have contracted the virus and approximately 30 million people have died from HIV-related causes (AMFAR, 2013). According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, 40 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, including 2,2 million children under the age of 15 years (Salaam, 2005). Half of the affected population is situated in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. Between 1990 and 2003, sub-Saharan Africa’s population of children orphaned by AIDS increased from less than 1 million to more than 12 million (UNAIDS, UNICEF & USAIDS, 2004). Due to the 10-year time lag between HIV infection and death, experts predict that without the availability of anti-retroviral medications orphan populations will continue to grow for at least two decades after a country has reached its peak HIV infection rate. Some experts estimate that every day in Africa, 1,900 children are born with HIV (Dabis & Ehounou, 2002). Apart from the possibility of contracting the virus, Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) are condemned to live in extraordinary conditions and constant violation of their fundamental rights because of their exposure to violence, abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.