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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SOUTH AFRICA: Govt needs to close loopholes to protect kids | Children | DFID
Sunday 16 July 2006
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SOUTH AFRICA: Govt needs to close loopholes to protect kids

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Down and out - kids on the streets

JOHANNESBURG, 13 July (PLUSNEWS) - Lack of financial and psychosocial support for South African children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS is limiting their access to schooling, healthcare, adequate food and protection from abuse.

Close to 8 million children eligible for child support are not receiving grants, in many cases due to bureaucratic delays in issuing identification documents, according to Karen Allan of the Alliance for Children's Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS).

"In the absence of a comprehensive social security package, poverty makes thousands of children vulnerable to harm," said Allan, who represents an alliance of 1,200 children's organisations. "It leaves them hungry, unable to access education, medical treatment, basic essential services and it exposes them to exploitation."

A three-day conference on orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV and AIDS in Johannesburg this week reviewed progress since a similar conference in 2002 and shared lessons learned.

A recurrent theme was the role of HIV/AIDS in exacerbating child poverty. The Department of Social Development emphasised the progress it has made in extending financial assistance to children - over 300,000 are now receiving a monthly foster care grant of R590 (US$84) and over seven million access a child support grant of R190 (US$27) a month - but acknowledged that significant gaps remain.

Allan noted the foster care grant system was not designed to cater for the sheer numbers of children who have been affected by the AIDS epidemic. She said an alternative model was needed to provide a more comprehensive package of services, while not being dependant on over-burdened social workers and courts.

The second part of a Children's Act that makes specific provisions for children affected by HIV/AIDS is expected to go through South Africa's National Assembly this year.

As well as legislating against the discrimination of orphans and vulnerable children, the Act calls for better integration by government departments to improve service delivery, and allow greater participation by children in decisions that affect them.

Children will have the right to access information about their health, including their HIV status, and children over the age of 12 will be able to access HIV testing and contraceptives.

The age of consent for medical treatment will also be lowered from 14 to 12. The Act also aims to protect children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS from cultural and religious practices such as virginity testing and forced marriage and by the creation of a national child protection register.

Groups like ACESS claim that the Children's Act, while a big step forward, is not everything they had hoped for. "The social security issue was completely taken out of the Children's Bill," said Allan.

The Act does not provide for the large numbers of vulnerable children aged between 14 and 18 who do not qualify for a child support grant. Allan pointed out that children in this age group who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS are often forced to drop out of school to find work.


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Soap star on drugs!,  12/Jul/06
Contrasting HIV-positive lives,  30/Jun/06
New strategies needed to meet shortfalls says Global Fund report,  29/Jun/06
New AIDS threat looms,  19/Jun/06
Govt wants to monitor PEPFAR funding,  12/Jun/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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