THE AIDS PANDEMIC CONTINUES TO GROW IN SOUTH AFRICA, LEAVING MORE CHILDREN ORPHANED AND ABANDONED THAN EVER BEFORE.
- South Africa leads the world in AIDS related deaths each year.
- Nine out of ten children who acquired HIV worldwide in 2011 live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- In South Africa, 6% of all children are infected with HIV during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding.
- The number of children who have lost both a mother and father has more than doubled since 2002 (from 350,000 to 950,000).
- There are between 3 to 5 million orphans in South Africa, and 2.5 million of those children have been orphaned due to AIDS.
- In 2007, 280,000 children under 15 were living with HIV in South Africa.
By the time HIV has been transmitted from mother to child, it is very likely that the virus has already taken a severe toll on the health, income, and productivity of the family unit.
At Acres of Love, these statistics become personal in the stories of our children.
Meet Lebo (name changed for privacy).
At a year old, Lebo weighed 5 kilograms. His mother relinquished him at the hospital, requesting that he be adopted. Incredibly frail, Lebo could not even crawl, and his huge eyes revealed the agony of his condition. His HIV positive status meant that he would be unable to be considered for adoption, and he seemed to be in the advanced stages of AIDS. As his health continued to deteriorate, the local welfare department brought him to Acres of Love. Within a day, our team realized he needed hospice care and our volunteers visited him daily to hug, hold, and love him. As others were dying in his ward, our volunteers thought that he was holding on in anticipation of the daily visits offering him love and affection.
Soon after, the hospice staff began to anticipate his death. We requested for him to be brought home to us where he could spend his final days in the arms of loving caregivers, as there was nothing medically left for them to do. In January 2002, Lebo returned home to a tearful celebration, as the staff was able to coax a teaspoon of yogurt down for the first time. Instead of growing weaker, Lebo began to grow stronger in the home environment, filled with love and care. Like every child at Acres of Love, Lebo’s future was embraced with optimism. Over the next eight months, Lebo made a miraculous recovery, as we realized he had dimples and an adorable sense of humor. Instead of suffering from the advanced stages of AIDS, Lebo was HIV positive with a very low viral load count. Lebo had simply been malnourished and suffering from a deep depression. Soon after, Lebo’s load count became so faint that he tested negative for HIV, which allowed him to be adopted. Today, Lebo is confidant and outgoing, with a mischievous sense of humor. He is strong willed, which helped him fight to live years ago. He is a delight to all who come in contact with him, and we are thankful to have been able to advocate on his behalf.