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Although the shocks of HIV/AIDS are being felt all over the world, the situation in Africa is the most alarming. In terms of national level comparison, the 21 countries with the highest HIV prevalence are all in Africa. According to a UNAIDS report, sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic: 70 percent of the global infections. Four- fifths of all AIDS deaths in the world in 1998 occurred in this region alone. At least 95 percent of all AIDS orphans have been African, yet only a tenth of the world’s population lives in Africa south of the Sahara. In 1998, AIDS was responsible for two million African deaths - 5 500 funerals a day. The bulk of new infections continue to be concentrated in East and especially in Southern Africa. According to UNAIDS report on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic 2002, the global estimated number of people living with HIV/AIDS at end 2001 was 40 million, which included 28.5 million just for the sub-Saharan Africa. The deaths caused by HIV/AIDS in the entire world were three million out of which 2.2 million occurred in the sub-Saharan Africa alone. Similarly, the number of children who became orphans because of HIV/AIDS worldwide was 14 million out of which 11 million are in the sub-Saharan African countries.

In the countries hardest hit by the epidemic, morbidity and mortality have risen and are expected to continue to rise in the foreseeable future, changing the demographic structure of households and taking a heavy toll on resources and assets. The HIV epidemic is destroying the traditional social security mechanisms that have been providing support for centuries to the elderly and to orphaned children.

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