30 November 2007

Global vigil for Aids orphans begins

The global vigil will feature the reading of the names of 6 000 orphans, symbolising the number of children who lose a parent daily because of Aids.

Christopher Wachira couldn't help but think of nine-year-old Hamisi Kombo as the names of 360 children, orphaned as a result of Aids, were read out at Toronto's CN Tower earlier this week.

The Kenyan boy, who is HIV-positive, has seen his parents, and two subsequent sets of caregivers die from Aids.

"He's being taken care of by his grandmother now," Wachira, a World Vision programme manager in Kenya said as an international vigil to mark World Aids Day on 1 December kicked off in Toronto.

The global vigil will feature the reading of the names of 6 000 orphans, symbolising the number of children who lose a parent daily because of Aids. From Toronto, the event moves westward to 17 cities around the globe, including San Salvador, Auckland and Seoul before finishing in New York on Friday.

New infection every 7.5 seconds
World Vision Canada, a Christian relief agency that is sponsoring the event in Toronto, says 33.5 million people worldwide have HIV. Every 7.5 second, someone around the world becomes infected with HIV.

"Calling out the names of the children gives you the sense that this (issue) is not imagined," said Wachira, who works with orphans and HIV-positive pregnant women in Kenya. "When you call out a name, you are calling on the world to support that child. It reminds you that you are probably enjoying life today, but a child somewhere else is not."

World Vision Canada also released the results of a survey on Thursday, examining attitudes towards HIV and Aids among people living in the big industrialised countries, including the United States, Canada and Japan.

The survey found that the level of global concern about the issue is equal to the concern over the war in Iraq. The only issues that concern people more than HIV/Aids are poverty and hunger, climate change and terrorism.

Of the surveyed countries, Canadians were found to be the most compassionate towards those affected by HIV and Aids.

Wachira is hopeful the vigil will raise greater awareness of HIV.

"I'm optimistic this vigil will mobilise people to support HIV programmes," Wachira said. "Many people have not thought of HIV as a problem." - (Reuters Health)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre

December 2007


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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