Citing hospital records, a National AIDS Control Programme report said the number of orphans had increased sharply over the past few years, while babies born with HIV infection were also on the increase.
"By the end of 1997, half a million people in Tanzania were living with AIDS, over 1.5 million were infected while over 300,000 children were orphaned," the UNDP resident representative in the country, Sally Fegan-Wyles, said recently.
But the National AIDS Control Programme believes the 1997 data for the orphans has more than doubled and would hit 800,000 mark by the end of 1999.
It said 50,000 babies are born with HIV infection in Tanzania per year.
"When AIDS kills parents, children become doubly vulnerable. They lose the ones who feed them, love them, care for them, teach them about life and living. They can lose their source of food, clothing, security, discipline, love," the report noted.
The anti-AIDS body, in collaboration with local NGOs, is currently spearheading a campaign to protect children against the risk of HIV/AIDS.
It wants more public-awareness programmes focused on the plight of children. "We should use every opportunity to discuss AIDS. But we should be factual and accurate, dispel misconceptions and wrong beliefs," it said.
It also wants the Tanzanian media to report more about AIDS. "Currently more is reported about workshops than AIDS...Please talk to children, you will learn a lot from them. By reporting their views, you help protect them in an increasingly hostile world." it added.
AIDS is currently the leading killer disease in Tanzania. Life expectancy in the country has decreased from 52 years in 1990 to 49.7 in 1999.
The first three AIDS cases in the country were reported in 1983. By the end of 1996, some 450,000 people were believed to have contracted the disease. Some two million Tanzanians will be HIV positive by 2000, according to the AIDS control programme.
Tanzanians joined the rest of the world to mark World AIDS Day Wednesday at national and regional levels with seminars, festivals, education campaigns, public rallies and cultural activities heightening people's awareness of the disease.
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