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 The Challenge: HIV/AIDS

Zambia is potentially a rich country endowed with untapped natural resources. It is located in the central part of Africa and lies between latitudes 100 and 180 degrees South and longitudes 220 and 330 East. It is land-locked and shares boundaries with eight other countries. Though itself is an oasis of peace, Zambia’s neighbors are in regular turmoil due to civil strife and other political confrontations. This results in large numbers of refugees from those countries who seek refuge in Zambia and add to Zambia’s economic burden.

Zambia’s population is just over 10 million people. Zambia also has the distinction of being one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, a phenomenon that results in high incidences of poverty in the towns due to unemployment.

50% of this population is under the age of 21 years. Over the last decade, life expectancy has dropped to 37 years.

Apart from abundant agricultural land, Zambia is endowed with mineral wealth, including precious stones such as emerald, amethyst, garnet, tourmaline, malachite, aquamarine and many other beryls. Zambia is also the fourth largest producer of copper in the world, boasting of 6% of the world’s copper reserves. In spite of this vast potential, many Zambians live in abject poverty.

National surveys show that 75 to 80 per cent of the population live in abject poverty--that is, that their average monthly incomes are insufficient for the purchase of the most essential basic food items. Many others do not even have an income. The situation is most acute in rural areas and especially among the womenfolk and girls. In the urban centers, poverty is prevalent among those living in squatter settlements, female-headed households and among persons without or with minimal education.

HIV/AIDS

Added to this scenario is the unfolding and devastating impact of HIV / AIDS. Zambia is at the center of this tragedy. The country now faces a massive crisis as a result of poverty, which is accelerated by HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS infection is a rapidly-growing problem and is widespread throughout Zambia. Some people maintain it is one of the most severely-affected countries in the world. The most severely-affected areas are in and around the main urban areas, along the line of railways and along the major roads.

An increasing number of families have fallen into severe poverty due to loss of income as a result of death of the "breadwinner." The cost of medical care and funeral rites creates a downward spiral for most of these families, and the poverty levels just makes the situation worse as families become poorer.

Infection with the HIV Virus and AIDS are urgent problems in Zambia with broad implications. Although the transmissions of HIV infection are many, sexual intercourse is the predominant mode of transmission.

The status of children is not well understood nor well-protected in the following areas:

  • their right to health and education
  • their right to equitable treatment without discrimination
  • their right not to be exploited through the imposition of manual labour

It is estimated that there are over three million poor children under the age of 15 in the country. The affected children include street children, AIDS orphans, disabled children, out of school children, working children and sexually abused children. Because of increased poverty their situation has worsened. For instance, the number of street children has increased in Lusaka.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zambia is disproportionately affecting the productive members of the Zambian society. The trend threatens to undo many of the gains made over the past years in improving health, social and economic status of the Zambians.

The country is undergoing one of the most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, it is expected that there will be an increase in infant and child mortality.

The challenges to the health system, communities and individuals created by HIV/AIDS in Zambia are overwhelming. Communities have to take responsibility for the care and support for people living with AIDS and for the increasing number of orphans to parents who die from AIDS.

HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the most productive members of society, especially those 25 to 39 years of age. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zambia is the most serious one. Children and women are among the most vulnerable groups. It is important that children are protected, as they play an important role in nation-building, and because they constitute a large part of the Zambian population. Educational/health program should play a role in building life-skills of children and young people. Since Health Services are struggling to cope with a steadily increasing number of patients with Aids-related diseases--for which hardly any medicines are available in hospitals--home-based care should be promoted though training care-givers. There is a great need for a massive campaign to stop transmission, especially through peer education.

Family life has broken down, resulting in increasing numbers of street children who are vulnerable to the pandemic. Responses like the one at White Lilly orphanage should be strengthened. Foster parenting must be encouraged, so that children have role models and support structures.

What is HIV/AIDS?

  • AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which damages the body’s defence system by disabling types of white blood cells called CD4 T that fight infection.
  • AIDS is an incurable but preventable disease. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, spreads through unprotected sex (intercourse without a condom), transfusions of unscreened blood, contaminated needles and syringes, and from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • All people, including children, are at risk for HIV/AIDS.
  • People with HIV usually live for years without any signs of the disease. They may look and feel healthy, but they can still pass on the virus to others.
  • Anyone who suspects that he or she might have HIV should contact a health worker or an HIV/AIDS centre to receive confidential counselling and testing.
  • The risk of getting HIV through sex can be reduced if people don't have sex at all, if they reduce the number of sex partners, if HIV negative partners have sex only with each other, or if they have safer sex – sex without penetration or while using a condom. Correct and consistent use of condoms can save lives by preventing the spread of HIV.
  • Girls are especially vulnerable and need support to protect themselves against unwanted and unsafe sex.
  • Parents and teachers can help young people protect themselves from HIV/AIDS by talking with them about how to avoid getting and spreading the disease, including the correct and consistent use of male or female condoms.
  • HIV can be passed from a mother to her child during pregnancy or childbirth or through breastfeeding. Pregnant women, HIV-positive new mothers and those who suspect they may have HIV should consult a qualified health worker to seek testing and counselling.
  • HIV can be spread by unsterilised needles or syringes, most often those used for injecting drugs. Used razor blades, knives or tools that cut or pierce the skin also carry some risk of spreading HIV.
  • It is not possible to get HIV/AIDS from touching. Hugging, shaking hands, coughing and sneezing will not spread the disease. HIV/AIDS cannot be transmitted through toilet seats, telephones, plates, glasses, eating utensils, towels, bed linen, swimming pools or public baths. HIV/AIDS is not spread by mosquitoes or other insects.
  • People who have a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) are at greater risk of getting HIV and of spreading HIV to others. People with STIs should seek prompt treatment and avHealthcare
    HIV/AIDS shows no signs of weakening its grip on human society. New epidemics are growing with alarming speed, and children continue to be left out of efforts to combat the pandemic.

We can make a difference by taking bold and decisive action to prevent new infections and by improving the quality of care and treatment for those who are HIV-positive.

Globally, 2.3 million children are living with HIV. In 2005, around 380,000 children died of AIDS and 540,000 children got newly infected. Over 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

By the end of 2002, 42 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, including almost 12 million young people between 15 and 24 and more than three million children under the age of 15. For the first time since the start of the epidemic, half the number of people living with HIV/AIDS were women and girls. In 2002 alone, AIDS killed more than 2.5 million adults and 610,000 children. Right now in Zambia, many children have been orphaned, left bewildered and on their own as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. HIV and AIDS and its impact on children continues to remain at the core to helping the children of Lusungu’s work.

Planned Action

Among the strategic activities we will undertake are:

  • The construction of three Houses which are being built one at time and classrooms. We anticipate doing this in blocks as funds are raised. Constructing in blocks is more environmentally and economically appropriate to achieve the same number of houses and classrooms when we finish.

Focused feasibility studies will identify the construction needs for:

  • Our intended sustainable Agriculture program
  • Income Generation ventures
  • Hostels in which to house additional children
  • Extended and enhanced kitchen facilities
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Expanded outreach healthcare delivery programs (home basic care)
  • Nutrition training for children and community members, especially for those with physical limitations
  • Agriculture extension programs
  • Entrepreneurial capacity building for children involved in income generation initiatives.
  • Arts and crafts training and income generation
  • Systems, processes and procedures will be developed to enable the Secretariat to do the vital work needed to support our mission.

Please see How You Can Help and the other links for more information.

MANAGEMENT TEAM IN ZAMBIA:

Bishop Caddie Ng’ambi & Rodah Kundah Ng’ambi

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