PARENTAL HEALTH: "Extending the Life of Parent-Child Relationships"

The mission of HIV/AIDS care and prevention services in Africa, is to decrease the period of vulnerability experienced by families and by postponing the age at which orphanhood occurs in affected children. Prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections prolong the lives of infected parents and reduce the amount of time lost to illness. Better nutrition and food security will improve the overall status of natural immunity and family health. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has dramatically increased mortality of adults in many Sub-Saharan African countries, with potentially severe consequences for surviving family members, especially young orphaned children.

Most of these impacts had not been quantified. The negative effect of adult mortality in Sub-Saharan African countries can be assessed on three measures of health among children under five: morbidity, height for age, and weight for height. The children hit hardest by the death of a parent or other significant adult are those in the poorest households, those with uneducated parents, and those with the least access to health care.

Three of the most important health interventions (i.e.: immunizations, rehydration, and access to health care) can do a lot to mitigate the impact of adult mortality. All these programs disproportionately improve health outcomes among the poorest children and, within that group, among children affected by adult mortality, at the cost of less than one U.S. dollar per child.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, there is so much poverty and child health indicators are so low that these interventions must be targeted as much as possible, to the poorest households, where the children hit hardest by adult mortality are most likely to be found. The key strategy for mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS is to strengthen the economic stability of affected communities. This can be done through two complementary approaches: first, by creating a community safety net by generating resources locally to mitigate the consequences of HIV/AIDS, and then by providing services to enable poor families and households to shore up their resources. These services have potential for the latter purpose: savings and aid mobilization while linking producers to markets and to sources of agricultural inputs and advice.

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