As of 2017: according to UNAIDS, there are around 17 million children worldwide that have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses, and around 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa. This is where the disease has hit the hardest, and where AIDS is generating orphans so quickly that already impoverished families are struggling to cope with the extra burden of taking in and providing for orphans. A generation of children are being raised by their grandparents or left to fend for themselves in child-headed households or on the streets.
At present there are at least 380,000 orphans in Zambia as a result of the AIDS crisis and at least 85,000 children are estimated to be infected with HIV/AIDS themselves. This situation is only likely to worsen as the adult HIV prevalence rate in Zambia is currently around 13%. This devastating disease has also kept the average life expectancy in Zambia far lower than it should be at just 60 years of age, although this is a significant improvement from 49 years back in 2005.
As well as coping with the death of their parents orphans may also have to cope with stigma and discrimination in their communities, face the possibility of having to work or beg for money instead of attending school, and are at risk of exploitation and abuse. AIDS also makes the whole country poorer as it tends to mostly affect young adults – society’s most productive people, including nurses, teachers and politicians – and therefore further reduces the ability of the country to cope with the problem. The country’s economy is stagnating rather than developing as it should.
The trends in new HIV infections across countries in sub-Saharan Africa have shown a decline by more than 33% from an estimated 2.2 million in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2013 but remain high. The scale up and widespread coverage of ART, (Antiretroviral therapy), has led to substantial declines in new HIV infections. Despite these declines, HIV incidence rates remain unacceptably high with the largest number of new infections coming from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya. The epidemics in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia appear to be declining, whilst the epidemics in Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland seem to be plateauing.