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Number of Children Who Have Lost Parents to AIDS is Growing

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WASHINGTON -- The number of children worldwide who have lost one or both parents to AIDS is expected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, activist groups said yesterday.

Sens. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., released the report along with the two groups to raise awareness of the millions of children worldwide who are affected by the disease -- being orphaned at a young age or contracting the illness.

Of the estimated 40 million people worldwide who are living with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, more than 2.5 million are under 15 and about 11.8 million are between 15 and 24, the report said.

The groups said 13.4 million children -- roughly the population of Los Angeles County -- have lost one or more parents to AIDS. That number is expected to nearly double by the end of the decade, the report said.

These numbers are personalized in the report through stories of individual children: Olivia Nantongo of Kampala, Uganda, was left an orphan at 12 when her mother, following her father, died of AIDS. Shunned by her family and neighbors, she sought refuge at a support group.

In 1999, Nantongo was part of a delegation that came to Washington to speak to then-President Clinton and Congress about AIDS. Soon after her return home, she was diagnosed with AIDS; she died a year later.

"We talk a lot now about getting treatment to people living with AIDS, but we also have to look at the social impact that this epidemic is having on families and communities, particularly in the hardest-hit regions," said Sandy Thurman, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based International AIDS Trust, which provided half of the $100,000 funding for the report.

The Children Affected by AIDS Foundation provided the rest of the funding.

Children who are orphaned by AIDS are an emerging problem, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Like Nantongo, they "experience high levels of psychological distress ... social isolation, stigma and discrimination." They also are more at risk for "physical and sexual abuse, as well as child labor exploitation," the report said.

President Bush announced in February a five-year, $15 billion plan aimed at stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide. The plan would send $9 billion in new funding to help with prevention, treatment and care services at 14 of the most affected countries. So far, only $350 million of the total funding has been released.

Vaccine recall

A rabies vaccine for humans is being recalled in the United States and 23 other countries because a live strain of the virus was found in another batch made at the same time.

Testing of Aventis Pasteur's IMOVAX vaccine revealed the presence of a live Pittman-Moore strain of the rabies virus, when the drug was not supposed to contain live virus, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

While the tested lot of the vaccine was never distributed for public use, Aventis recalled four other lots in the United States because they were made at the same time as the faulty lot. The CDC said those lots had all passed quality tests.

The CDC said it was theoretically possible but unlikely that anyone who received rabies shots from the recalled lots could have been exposed to the live form of the virus.

As a result, the CDC has recommended that people who have taken recalled rabies shots receive additional shots of the vaccine that have not been recalled.

The recalled lots, X0667-2, X0667-3, W1419-2 and W1419-3, were distributed between Sept. 23 and last Friday, officials said.

Twenty-one other lots were being recalled in 23 other countries, according to information from the vaccine manufacturer posted yesterday on a Web site for infectious disease doctors. The lots recalled overseas also passed quality tests, the CDC said.

There is no scientific data on the effect of exposure to the Pittman-Moore rabies virus, which differs from the wild rabies virus, but according to anecdotal accounts lab workers exposed to it "never had any adverse consequences," said Len Lavenda, a spokesman at the company's offices in Swiftwater, Pa.

He said the recall affected at least 82,000 doses distributed in the United States and Western Europe, but he did not have data for other parts of the world.

Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the rabies vaccine is the most commonly used in the world.

Secondhand smoke

Parents who use tobacco may be slowing their children's ability to heal and making wounds more likely to scar, according to a new study.

Whether the child has a cut, burn or infection, coming in contact with smoke or breathing it in can worsen damage, said Manuela Martins-Green, an associate professor of cell biology at the University of California-Riverside.

"The child will have a harder time recovering from anything that causes a wound," said Martins-Green, who led the team of researchers.

Smoke can accumulate in the air, Martins-Green said. Being around secondhand smoke also could be troublesome for children and adults with diabetes because they often get sores on their feet, she said.

The cell study was published this week in BMC Cell Biology.

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