Orphans Against AIDS believes that education is one of the
most sustainable, effective, and efficient means of confronting the HIV/AIDS crisis throughout the world. This is especially true for children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by the epidemic since education "is the means [for realizing] the possibility of productive employment and minimizing their risk of being exploited and of themselves becoming infected with HIV." By focusing our efforts on those youths who cannot afford school because their parents have been affected by HIV/AIDS, OAA and its local partners ensure that future generations have the wherewithal - the personal and social resources that come with an education - to capitalize on opportunities to escape the pandemic. Those children for whom OAA provides educational funding have an enhanced ability to circumvent low-wage, unstable, and exploitive labor; rather, their academic and vocational training affords them enhanced employment opportunities, strengthens their ties to the community, and improves their self-esteem. In this respect, OAA's educational scholarships are a catalyst in helping to break the cycle of HIV/AIDS.
The challenges we face are significant: According to the UNAIDS/World Health Organization 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, by the end of 2007, HIV/AIDS had left behind 15 million AIDS orphans, defined as those youngsters under 18 years of age who have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Indeed, nearly 12 million children under 18 years of age have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone (12.3% of all children) and this figure is expected to rise to 14 million by 2015. Nevertheless, the tools that OAA employs are powerful and are in line with the best practices championed by international experts:
- UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID argue that, “Generally, the people who live in these communities are in the best position to determine which children are at greatest risk and what factors should be used to assess vulnerability and set priorities for local action." As a result, OAA establishes partnerships with local organizations that can directly assess and meet the needs of local populations. OAA develops the capacity of these organizations in myriad ways, including funding support and connecting them with additional international donors. From building websites to assisting with long-term planning and program design, OAA volunteers complement the invaluable local knowledge and community trust that its carefully selected partners possess.
- UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID prioritize the necessity of ensuring orphans’ access to “essential services, including education and health care." As a result, OAA monitors and evaluates the activities of its partners to ensure that all funds go toward meeting these needs for the children whom we serve. Furthermore, OAA commits to fully fund its scholarship recipients throughout the duration of their primary and secondary school education, as long as they remain in good academic standing.
- UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID suggest that “strengthening the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and vulnerable children” is a key element of any successful strategy." As a result, OAA works with its local partners to keep vulnerable children within their own communities—after determining that they are safe and in a supportive environment—wherever possible.
Finally, unique among our peer organizations, no OAA donations are used for overhead expenses. Instead, the OAA officers cover all of the organization's administrative and travel costs. As a result, every dollar donated to OAA goes directly toward ensuring that children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS have access to a high-quality education, nutrition, and health care.
 Matshalaga, Neddy Rita, and Powell, Greg. “Mass Orphanhood in the Era of HIV/AIDS: Bold Support for Alleviation of Poverty and Education May Avert a Social Disaster.” British Medical Journal. January 26, 2002. Pg. 185-186.
 UNAIDS, "Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic.” July 2008. Pgs. 21, 24, & 218.
 Children on the Brink 2004: A Joint Report of New Orphan Estimates and a Framework for Action.” UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID. July 2004. Pg. 3.
 Ibid. Pg. 5.
 Ibid. Pg. 5.