One of the greatest unfolding tragedies of the century is the growing number of child-headed households as a direct consequence of HIV/AIDS. The small country of Swaziland is the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic—one in four adults live with AIDS, and the rate is NOT decreasing.
- As a result, an estimated 78,000 children are AIDS orphans, and over 15,000 are from child headed households.
- Though Swaziland is ranked a lower middle-income country, about 69% live in chronic poverty.
- Women are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection, and poverty as they are less likely to be educated, and more likely to have the responsibility to run a household—yet young people are more susceptible to poverty for the following reasons:
- The population is growing at a rapid rate
- Young people are not educationally equipped to become competitive in the workplace
- Jobs in the country are scarce, and grow scarcer during times of economic difficulty
- A 2010 report by NERCHA shows that teenagers begin taking more risks, being sexually active. With one in every two sexually active people infected, studies show that poverty contributes to transactional sex, and economic needs are met through sexual favors.
Children, not only are forced to undertake the responsibilities of independent adults, but they are left to face increasingly dangerous living conditions without adequate adult supervision. The lack of a support network leaves the children vulnerable to human rights violations and various abuses. Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach (SOHO) seeks to improve the lives and life expectancy of children from child-headed households.