SA's orphan rate on the decline
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Cape Town – The access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatments has been cited as the reason fewer children have been found to be orphaned.
The South African Child Gauge Survey, released earlier this week, found that the number of orphaned children dropped last year.
“In 2017 there were 2.8 million orphans in South Africa. This includes children without a living biological mother, father or both parents, and is equivalent to 14% of all children in South Africa.
"The total number of orphans increased by over a million between 2002 and 2009, after which the trend reversed. By 2017, orphan numbers had fallen to below 2002 levels. This was largely the result of improved access to antiretrovirals,” the survey said.
The survey also found that children were more likely to be paternal orphans, meaning they had a mother but no father present in their lives.
Last year, 3% of children were maternal orphans with living fathers, 9% were paternal orphans with living mothers, and a further 3% were recorded as double orphans.
The study's lead editor of the 2018 issue, Katherine Hall, said that because more people have access to HIV treatment, parents are more likely to be around for their children.
“Before, what happened was not only that there was a high child mortality rate, because they were born with HIV, but also mothers would die as a result of HIV. Then they started rolling out ARVs and we saw those number decreasing.”
She said there was a model that projected that the number of orphans would only decrease from about 2018, but it had dropped faster than the model because of the rollouts.
Hall said orphan rates were lower in the Western Cape, because most orphaned children lived with extended families in other provinces, like the Eastern Cape.
“The Eastern Cape lost many of its resources when the provinces were divided, and it was no longer part of the Western Cape. The Western Cape still exploits the workforce of the Eastern Cape, and parents who come to the cities for work die as a result of HIV, and children are left in the care of relatives back home.”
In 2000, just 685 000 people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy. By June 2017, around 20.9 million people had access to the life-saving medicines.