Today is World AIDS Day

News First | December 3, 2010

British children's newspaper News First included a report on World AIDS Day and the pandemic, including a short story about Cliff, a young HIV-boy living with his grandparents in Zimbabwe. Cliff receives treatment at a health care facility supported by the Foundation.

What is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is an illness which makes people very unwell, breaking down their immune system and, without medicine, can eventually lead to death. AIDS starts off as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and, on average, it takes more than ten years for a person who is HIV+ (HIV positive) to develop AIDS. Some people live with the illness for more than 20 years. One of the ways to catch it is when an HIV+ woman passes it on to her baby when she is pregnant or gives birth.

How many people are affected?
There are 33 million people across the world living with AIDS, 67% of them live in sub Saharan Africa. There are 2.1 million children who are HIV+. Because many of these people that have died are parents, there are 14 million children who are now orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. This has led to big social problems including homelessness and lack of access to education and health services trapping these children in poverty and ill health.

How is AIDS treated?
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS at the moment, but scientists around the world are working hard to find a vaccine. There are treatments available called anti-retroviral drugs which help extend people’s lives, but they don’t cure the illness.

What is the UK doing?
The British Government works with others throughout the developing world to reduce new HIV infections which have impacted on so many children’s lives.

One way to help is to get more services to stop HIV+ mothers passing it on to their children. Pregnant HIV+ women take anti-retroviral drugs before and after they give birth. This means their children are more likely to be born HIV negative. Through support and life long treatment their mothers are able to see them grow up. These services have reduced mother to child transmission, and the Department for International Development works with partners to eventually eliminate AIDS in the developing world.

Zimbabwean HIV+ mother and candle maker Patience Mapfumo took anti-retroviral drugs during her pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy HIV negative son. Now five years old, Josphat is at preschool and has a bright future.

Cliff's Story
Cliff, from Zimbabwe, lives with his grandparents because his mother died when he was a child. His mother was told by a nurse when he was very little that he had HIV and, before he got treatment, he couldn’t walk because he was so sick. He gets treatment from a Ministry of Health and Child Welfare health facility who receive support for Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV from the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation which is partly funded by the British Government.

Cliff, who now looks healthy, can lead a normal life: “No-one at school cares that I am HIV+. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have a sick person in their family,” he said.

His grandparents, Nicolas and Rita, who are in their mid seventies have seen how the medicines are helping Cliff: “We are looking after seven children. Six of our sons and one of our daughters died from AIDS. How can this be? Our grandson, Cliff, is also HIV+, but medical staff realised this in time and he is now doing well on anti-retroviral therapy”.