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Child survivors of the AIDS crisis in Africa

Some 20 million children in sub-Saharan Africa have lost both parents to AIDS.

"Face to Face," written by Ruthann Richter and photographed by Karen Ande, comes at a time when policymakers are revamping their approach to children’s aid. Young survivors are not just viewed as cases to be fed and clothed and given medicine, but they are treated now as children who need a loving family and psychosocial support as well.

The new strategy mimics the way treatment modalities mature. First comes detection, then devising an efficient treatment strategy. And only then does treatment move beyond survival to focus on quality of life.

In the June issue of The Journal of the International AIDS Society, Linda Richter (no relation to Ruthann), an investigator with the Human Sciences Research Council in Durban, South Africa, wrote that “mere provision of antiretrovirals will not be sufficient, it is of pivotal importance that treatment and care for children are integrated into the broader context of family-support services.” 

The point of "Face to Face" is to use words and pictures to tell small success stories, or as Richter calls them, the “unheralded champions.” Each chapter describes villagers who have made strides to help the lives of local children — whether it's establishing a health clinic, providing the means for families to earn money or creating schools.

John Adoli, a former soccer player, for instance, founded Girl Power in Kibera that provides young women with HIV-counseling and jobs to keep them away from prostitution.

“We were able to follow some of these kids over the course of four years," said Richter. "One girl was 13 and her mother was literally on her deathbed. She was holding the family together, caring for three younger brothers — all of whom showed signs of malnutrition. She was rescued by a woman who started a public school and for the first time she and her brothers attended school, were fed and are all doing very well."

"Even with small resources people can really make a difference in a child’s life,” Richter said.