An AIDS orphan is a child who became an orphan because one or both parents died from AIDS.
In statistics from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the term is used for a child whose mother has died due to AIDS before the child's 15th birthday, regardless of whether the father is still alive. As a result of this definition, one study estimated that 80% of all AIDS orphans still have one living parent.
There are 70,000 new AIDS orphans a year (as of 2001).
Because AIDS affects mainly those who are sexually active, AIDS-related deaths are often people who are their family's primary wage earners. The resulting AIDS orphans frequently depend on the state for care and financial support, particularly in Africa.
The highest number of orphans due to AIDS alive in 2007 was in South Africa (although the definition of AIDS orphan in South African statistics includes children up to the age of 18 who have lost either biological parent). In 2005 the highest number of AIDS orphans as a percentage of all orphans was in Zimbabwe.
Around half of all people who acquire HIV become infected before they turn 25 and typically die of the life-threatening ill-nesses called "AIDS" before their 35 th birthday. This age factor makes AIDS uniquely threatening to children. By the end of 1999, the epidemic had left behind a cumulative total of 11.2 million AIDS orphans, defined as those having lost their mother before reaching the age of 15. Many of these maternal orphans have also lost their father.