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CNN Today

AIDS Epidemic Generating Orphans Across Africa

Aired May 1, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Clinton administration considers the worldwide spread of AIDS to be a threat to national security. The president's staff says AIDS is so widespread in several countries, it could undermine their economies and their governments. The administration points to figures from the U.N. and the World Health Organization. The groups report 95 percent of HIV-positive people live in developing countries, and close to 70 percent of those are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The crisis is generating a wave of orphans across Africa. And for the relatives left behind to care for them, AIDS comes with a price tag.

CNN's Eileen O'Connor looks at a program to help offset the economic cost of AIDS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: 2.2 million people died from AIDS in Africa in 1999, leaving behind 10.4 million children under 15, many now orphans with both parents victims of this pandemic.

ZAINABU SALEH MSOMOKA (through translator): The young generation are leaving behind their kids and it is a big battle for the old people like us.

O'CONNOR: Zainabu Saleh Msomoka's eldest son and daughter-in-law died, leaving her with four children to care for. Selling off her government food allotment gave her one dollar to start a roadside stand selling roasted sweet potatoes. She, like so many other women in Africa, says her savior from starvation came in the form of a $65- microcredit loan she used to expand her business to a restaurant, enabling her to feed her grandchildren.

MSOMOKA (through translator): I wouldn't have been able to educate them, I wouldn't be able to feed them.

O'CONNOR: The Foundation for International Community Assistance, or FINCA, has provided over $40 million and says these loans are now proving crucial in the battle against the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

LAWRENCE YANOVITCH, FINCA INTERNATIONAL: As long as these women are really desperately poor, they don't have time to come and listen to the education messages.

O'CONNOR: Critics say these programs only work if well- administered, and only if partnered with access to better health care and AIDS education. Still, the United States Congress may fund an additional $50 million for such programs. Administrators say a repayment rate of 98 percent and the benefits to African economies make this an investment that pays off.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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