If projections are anything to go by the number of AIDS orphans in Swaziland increases at an alarming rate every year. Most of the AIDS orphans do not have both parents; it is in rare cases where one parent is still alive. The situation is worse in polygamous families because each wife has a number of children with only one father - so when the father, who is usually the sole bread winner, dies the children are left without food and proper care.
To make matters worse, often the mothers also get infected with AIDS. Eventually the mothers die one after the other and the children are often left to fend for themselves. Even if relatives may try to ease the burden sometimes they are unable to help because of the high number of the children. These family are then child headed with the oldest being as young as five years.
Just before the parents die the AIDS orphans actually become the parents to their parents i.e. the older one has to look after them and his or her siblings. That often leaves the child emotionally drained because he or she has to make sure there is food on the table for the parent(s) - because they have to take their medication on a full stomach. To make matters worse, this child who becomes a caretaker is usually not trained on how to care for an HIV infected person and thus becomes vulnerable to being infected with the HIV virus.
Having to cope with the pressure of being a student, parent and everything else, there is just no time for the orphans of AIDS to grow and enjoy life like any normal child. I mean, before going to school in the morning, for those that get paid for by the government, they have to do what parents normally do when sending off their kids to school. That is, wake the other siblings up, bath them, prepare their meals (if by chance there is food in the house) and then send them off to school. In most cases these children have to walk long distances on barefoot just to get to school - usually on an empty stomach. Imagine what they go through in winter without much clothes and proper uniform and even summer under the scorching African sun.
There is no doubt that AIDS orphans in Swaziland need as much assistance from people within the country and even outside the country. I have seen how some of these little ones have managed to defy all odds and made a good life for themselves. I have a friend who grew up exactly like this but has turned out to be a source of inspiration. All it took was one kind person who saw beyond his disadvantages and realized what a great person that orphan of AIDS could be.