Press Releases

12 May 2005

Coping with HIV/AIDS within the Family

United Nations Marks International Day of Families Focusing on HIV/AIDS

VIENNA, 12 May (UN Information Service) -- The subject of this year’s International Day of Families is the impact of HIV/AIDS on family well-being. The aim is to draw global attention to the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS within families, especially in developing countries with a very high proportion of affected persons. The International Day of Families is observed by the United Nations annually on 15 May.

HIV/AIDS disproportionately increases the vulnerability of families. As soon as one family member is affected, everyone in the family suffers, not only because of the human tragedy but also owing to economic difficulties resulting from rising healthcare costs and decreasing income.

Children are among the most vulnerable. By 2003, 15 million children under the age of 18 had been orphaned worldwide by HIV/AIDS. The “generation of orphans” is at a much higher risk of falling victim to malnutrition, violence, child labour, discrimination or other abuses than children being brought up under better circumstances. Therefore, supporting the strength of families and family networks is instrumental to improving the capacity of this future generation to cope with the disease and its consequences.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS, held in 2001, recognized the importance of keeping alive family members affected by HIV/AIDS, in order to sustain the integrity and functioning of families. It called upon governments to establish strategies, policies and programmes that focused on alleviating the epidemic’s devastating social and economic impact.

The Austrian aid organization Caritas implements 15 projects related to HIV/AIDS issues in nine countries around the world. These include providing food and medical and educational assistance to children with HIV, as well as to AIDS orphans. Other projects give financial support and medical treatment to AIDS victims, and training on HIV-prevention and on how to deal with AIDS patients. Caritas especially promotes projects which involve women.

A Caritas project in Rwanda assists about 240 indigent AIDS patients and their families in the diocese of Kibungo with medical access and treatment. This project aims to alleviate the social stigmatisation of victims by sensitising community and family members on the integration of HIV/AIDS infected persons into their daily activities. Caritas has also started self-help groups in this region.

The International Day of Families was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 47/237 of 20 September 1993, and encourages governments, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions as well as religious groups, and individuals, to generate awareness of the economic, cultural, social and demographic processes affecting families.

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