Background and Short History
In 1997, there was a need for facilities to care for orphans in Ethiopia. More and more of the orphans in care were testing positive for HIV. In 2002, a home known as the ENAT HIV Children’s Center was established exclusively for the care of orphans infected with HIV. At the same time, Kathy Olsen started a non-profit charity to assist in the funding of the home for the HIV positive children. That group is AHOPE for Children.
AHOPE stands for African HIV Orphans: Project Embrace. On July 12, 2004, the ENAT HIV Children’s Center was closed and replaced by a new NGO, AHOPE Ethiopia. The children at ENAT now lived at AHOPE Ethiopia.
Thanks to President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),in September, 2005, the first pediatric program to provide lifesaving antiretroviral medications in all of Ethiopia was establish at AHOPE Ethiopia. AHOPE partnered with Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO) and the program was administered through WWO’s newly established mediator AIDS clinic in Addis Ababa. The focus of care and outreach changed dramatically with the arrival of ARVs; what was once considered a hospice program which anticipated death AHOPE became a program of hope for a real future for every child.
Where We Are Today
Today, AHOPE is thriving. More people than ever know of and support AHOPE and the miraculous work they do. And more and more children are surviving a diagnosis of HIV. While this adds to the challenge of caring for many children for longer periods of time, it is a wonderful problem to have. AHOPE children are going to school, learning to manage their disease, and some are preparing for life outside of AHOPE. The very first child to “age-out” of the system will be leaving in the not too distant future. This has created significant challenges for AHOPE. The age range of children there is now from infant to age 18.
Ethiopia and HIV/AIDS
- An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS.
- In 2009, 1.8 million people died due to HIV/AIDS, and another 2.6 mil-lion were newly infected.
- More than 68 percent (approximately 22.5 million people) of those infected are in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Worldwide, 2.5 million children under 15 are living with HIV/AIDS, and 370,000 were newly infected in 2009.
Those are just some of the staggering statistics on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Ethiopia is a nation that has been severely afflicted by the AIDS pandemic. The first case of HIV in Ethiopia was reported in 1984. Since then, an entire generation of child-bearing age and child-raising age adults has been decimated. HIV/AIDS has become a major public health concern in the country, leading the Government of Ethiopia to declare a public health emergency in 2002. In 2007, the estimated adult HIV/AIDS prevalence in Ethiopia was 2.1 percent and today it remains a major development challenge for Ethiopia. Poverty, food shortages, and other socio-economic factors amplify the impact of the epidemic. Estimates indicate that in 2009 in Ethiopia approximately 1.1 million people were living with HIV, with a prevalence rate of about 2.3 percent.
Children in Ethiopia are also profoundly affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2009, nearly 73,000 children under age 15 were living with HIV.
And despite the progress, children continue to lag behind adults when it comes to accessing critical services, including treatment. Between 2009 and 2010, the estimated number of children with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa who received antiretroviral therapy (ART) rose from 296,000 to 387,500. However, they represent only a quarter of children in need compared to roughly half of eligible adults receiving this life-saving treatment.
Ethiopia also has one of the largest populations of orphans in the world: 13 per cent of children throughout the country are missing one or both parents. This represents an estimated 4.6 million children – more than 800,000 of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
The country has seen a steady increase in the number of children becoming orphaned because of AIDS. In the past, famine, conflict and other diseases were the main factors that claimed the lives of parents.
When it comes to caring for these orphans and vulnerable children, (OVC) there is a gap in coverage. A major challenge related to care and support to OVC is the lack of standards and inadequate resources to reach needy children and mitigate the impact of HIV. Care for orphans falls primarily on their extended family or the community, yet grandparents and other extended family often lack the capacity to care for these children. In many cases, stigma and discrimination force orphans to live on the street. AIDS leaves children without parents and tears families apart. More effort should be done to strengthen and intensify OVC and PLHIV care and support.
This is why the work of AHOPE is critical, and why your support is critical. When an extended family member or proposed guardian is unwilling or unable to care for these children, very few homes will accept orphans who themselves are HIV+. AHOPE was established specifically to help children orphaned by AIDS, with a special emphasis on those orphans infected with HIV. AHOPE is here to catch those HIV+ children who would be abandon to the streets and works to preserve their family and ethnic identity, two very important elements of the Ethiopian culture.