AIDS orphans are so abundant in our world that many people recognize today, May 7, as World AIDS Orphans Day. There are some 15 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone and, over the past few weeks, we've highlighted a few of them in our Poverty 180 blog.
UNAIDS, the branch of the United Nations dedicated to addressing AIDS, is harnessing the potential of young people to be leaders in stopping the pandemic. A couple weeks ago, the executive director of UNAIDS took formal recommendations collected from more than 5,000 young people across 79 countries. No doubt, many of those 5,000 had lost one or both parents to the disease.
These key recommendations were provided to UNAIDS by and for young people:
- Strengthen young people's skills for effective leadership at all levels of the AIDS response;
- Ensure the full participation of youth in the AIDS response at country, regional, and global levels;
- Improve young people's access to HIV-related information;
- Diversify and strengthen strategic networks between the UNAIDS Secretariat, youth networks, and other key players;
- Increase the UNAIDS Secretariat's outreach to both formal and informal networks of young people; and,
- Increase young people's access to financial support.
FH already practices some of these recommendations by educating youth about how to protect themselves. Through after-school clubs and one-on-one counseling, young people learn the science behind the disease, empowering them both to protect themselves and to extend Christlike compassion to those who are HIV-positive.
FH also supports youth financially, in sustainable ways. Handouts are given in cases of emergency, but many programs are focused on increasing the income of parents so their children can attend school instead of having to work.