On Wednesday in Washington, D.C., senators Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) joined two AIDS groups in releasing a report forecasting that the worldwide number of children orphaned by AIDS will reach 25 million by the end of the decade. AIDS orphans, like those who are HIV-positive themselves, "experience high levels of psychological distress, social isolation, stigma, and discrimination," said the report, which was funded by the International AIDS Trust and the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation. In addition, orphans are at increased risk of "physical and sexual abuse as well as child labor exploitation," the report said. Some 13.4 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, a number the report said is expected to nearly double by the end of the decade. DeWine said the report underscores the need for Congress to approve funds that will improve public health systems in poor countries. So far, only $350 million of the $15 billion President Bush pledged to fight AIDS internationally has been released. "This isn't just about AIDS. Most of the childhood deaths are avoidable and preventable. We can do simple things to save millions of children's lives," said DeWine.
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