|Data on an increase in orphanhood can be a very powerful indicator of the impact of an AIDS epidemic. Besides tracking the impact of AIDS deaths on communities, this indicator also has multiple advocacy uses.
One limitation of this measure is that it is not able to distinguish AIDS-related orphanhood from orphanhood due to other causes. However since young adult death was stable or falling in most countries for some years before the arrival of HIV, it is not unreasonable to assume that the bulk of any rise in orphanhood over baseline levels is attributable to HIV.
Orphans may be more mobile than other children. Those most in need of care may be in child-headed households that do not qualify for inclusion in a household survey. Street children living in orphanages will also be missed. Households with AIDS-related deaths often completely disintegrate following the death of heads, and children are sent to live with relatives in the same or another area. Using a household survey and asking about whether the parents are still alive will help alleviate the primary household disintegration issue.
Definitions of orphanhood differ among countries. In some countries, the legal definition includes all children under 18 who have lost either or both parents, for example, while in others it includes all children under 15 who have lost their mother. It is suggested that the standard definition given in this indicator is used to allow for comparison across populations. However, countries may also wish to compile an indicator based on their own national definition of orphanhood. The methodology for constructing the indicator remains unchanged.