In a recent report by Sally Sara on ABC's The World Today, the wonderful news of the thousands of children whose lives have been saved by anti-retroviral drugs in South Africa was tempered by the emergence of a new crisis for these children: What does the future hold for these orphans and vulnerable children now living with HIV?
It's an important and complicated question, and may define the next phase of the fight to protect and support the children affected by the AIDS epidemic. Our first order of business, as a global health community, was to do all we could to facilitate counseling, testing, and treatment for HIV-affected youth. Without success at that effort - saving the lives of these vulnerable children - there was no hope for their future. To the extent that the South African government and all its partners and funders have been successful in that effort, together we face new and perhaps even equally challenging questions.
As the founder of Sparrow Rainbow Village Orphanage in Johannesburg, the Reverend Dr. Corine McClintock, asks in her discussion with Sally Sara,
"When they leave school, where do they go? Our housing situation is in crisis. But they are actually victims of their illness because they are orphans and they have nowhere to go and there's no voice for them."
Global Camps Africa's mission is to empower these young people with the life skills they will need to navigate the challenges they will face, and also to help them become aware of the hope and potential that their lives hold. Living with the stigma of HIV can be a tremendous burden for these children, but it is our job to give them tools to overcome that obstacle and make choices based on hope, not despair or fear.
Much work remains to improve the circumstances under which these young people must operate...decent and affordable housing, good education, improved economic opportunities, and a stronger healthcare system will all be essential to the ultimate positive outcomes for these children. But we have come so far together already...let's make our choices based on hope, not despair.