HIV/AIDS and Orphans in Eastern Europe

Many of great evils in the world—from poverty and war to human trafficking and disease—are both cause and effect of the global orphan crisis.  The relation between orphanhood and other ills is cyclical, one amplifying the other and then vice-versa.

One place this is seen most vividly is in relation to HIV/AIDS.  As this disease has struck down fathers and mothers in the prime of life, decimated extended family and village support structures, and ravaged entire nations, it has left millions of orphans in its wake.  At the same time, a child’s status as an orphan and the special vulnerabilities this represents often make it especially likely that he or she will contract AIDS and pass it on to others.

A recent study by Summit instructor Dr. Susan Hillis and her colleagues highlights this vicious cycle.  Their study was the first systematic, community-based, multi-city assessment outside of the U.S. of AIDS prevalence and risk factors among street children.  Among other findings, the study reported that 18.4% of the youths living on the streets were HIV positive.  Less than one in six had known they were positive prior to the study.

The study found that orphans were among the subgroups with the highest rates of infection included—with 26% being HIV positive.  A youth’s orphan status was found to be an “independent predictor” of HIV status, meaning that even controlling for a variety of other potential causes, being an orphan made a boy or girl more likely to get HIV.

See the full study here:  HIV and Street Youth in Ukraine.