|Children's Rights: Creating a Culture of Human Rights - Basic Information Kit No. 3 (UNAIDS, 1998, 12 p.)|
Despite the almost universal ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children infected with HIV, those affected by the epidemic, and those living in the shadow of HIV infection continue to suffer serious discrimination, exploitation and abuse in most countries. These violations of the rights of children can be the result of their real or perceived HIV status or that of members of their families. They can also make those children not already infected become more vulnerable to infection. The less children are able to make free and informed decisions about their lives, the more vulnerable they are to becoming infected. For example, a lack of access to education or work may lead to early unemployment and a risk of sexual exploitation and drug abuse.
At the end of 1997 one million children are estimated to be living with HIV and suffering the physical and psychological consequences of infection. Of the estimated 16,000 new infections daily, about 1,600 are in children under the age of 15 years. In most parts of the world, the majority of new infections are in young people between the ages of 15 and 24, sometimes younger.
In line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children living with HIV/AIDS must have access to treatment, counselling, education, recreation and social support, and be protected against any form of discrimination.
In December 1997 UNAIDS estimated that the total number of AIDS orphans (defined as children having lost their mother or both parents to AIDS before the age of 15) since the start of the epidemic was at least 8.2 million. In many developing countries extended family systems have traditionally provided support for orphans. However, AIDS, combined with other pressures such as migration, is pushing the extended family system to breaking point in the worst affected communities.