Despite global AIDS rates declining, the lasting impact of this often fatal disease will stretch into the coming decades, especially in Africa.
In a 2014 United Nations report, the global advocacy organization suggested the AIDS epidemic that had gripped the world since the mid-1980s was beginning to wane. The worldwide decrease in new HIV cases, the 35 percent reduction of HIV related deaths and more access to lifesaving medications were all credited for the dropping numbers of global HIV-AIDS rates.
The positive data even prompted international health officials to set a tentative date for the planned eradication of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“If we accelerate all HIV scale-up [increased efforts to fight the virus] by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030,” said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “If not, we risk significantly increasing the time it would take — adding a decade, if not more.”
While there have been significant strides in AIDS protection and reduction on the African continent, the devastating impact of more than 30 years of record AIDS-HIV diagnoses have left millions of children orphaned. In 2004, there was an estimated 11 million children orphaned by AIDS living in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Eight out of every 10 children in the world whose parents have died of AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. During the last decade [1994-2004], the proportion of children who are orphaned as a result of AIDS rose from 3.5% to 32%,” notes a 2004 UN news report.
As a result of the ten-year record, almost an entire generation of children has been left orphaned by the disease. These children are left vulnerable and alone, which jeopardizes their health, their rights, their well-being and sometimes their very survival.
Feeling compelled to help the growing number of Kenya’s orphans and abandoned children, in 1989 Charles Mulli established the Mully Children’s Family Charitable Organization. Based on the concept of providing these children with a family instead of just basic shelter, the Mully Children’s Family has grown to be a large family indeed.
In the 26 years since Mulli founded the organization, the Mully Children’s Family has welcomed more than 10,000 kids into the organization and provided support to over 2,500 more. Children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic aren’t the only ones welcome at the large African facility. Former child soldiers, young mothers, girls forced into the sex trade and child laborers also receive shelter, food, education, training, health care, counselling and parental love at Mully’s.
While the on-site services are delivered by locals, as the old proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child — in this case, it takes a global village.
“Canadians have played an integral part in the rescue and rehabilitation of Kenya’s orphaned and abandoned children,” wrote founder Charles Mulli. “Together, we provide resources that allow Kenya’s children an opportunity to grow into independent and valuable contributors to their communities.”
Apotex is one of the Canadian companies that has answered the international call of Africa’s orphans.
As Canada’s leading supplier and manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals, Apotex has been committed to providing Mulli Children’s Family with medicines for their clinic. Apotex periodically sends two medical teams to the Nairobi-based organization to provide medical care and assessment. Apotex has also sent three shipments of medications, which have been used to treat a variety of conditions, including HIV/AIDS.
Health is a key focus at Mulli Children’s Family. The organization not only provides life-saving medication to the children, they also promote physical activity to ensure good physical and mental health. The children at the organization participate in a variety of sports and leisure activities, including gymnastics, karate and basketball.
Through medical advances, we have been able to drastically decrease the spread of HIV-AIDS, as well as the number of deaths related to the disease. While this is a feat of its own, only time will tell if we are able to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable victims of the HIV epidemic, orphaned children.