what health problems do street children face?
One of the most pressing health problems facing street children is drug abuse, which offers an escape from the harsh daily realities of family break-up, poverty, hunger, violence and homelessness.
Street children in the developing world most often use inhalants, including industrial glue, paint thinner and other solvents, as well as marijuana and coca leaf byproducts, because they are inexpensive and easily obtainable.
For most street children, drug use is associated with hunger, homelessness and despair. Street children in Kenya say they sniff glue to help them eat the rotten food they forage through for survival. Street children in Central America say that the chief attraction of sniffing glue is its price: Two days' worth costs about 50 cents in Columbia, and a week's supply costs about 75 cents in Honduras, far less than the cost of maintaining a regular diet.
Street children are being further marginalized by the rapid spread of AIDS. Their lifestyles and struggle to survive land them in the highest-risk categories for contracting the disease, with their sexual exploitation and drug use putting them at particular risk.
In Brazil, which has one of the highest numbers of AIDS cases, public health officials describe AIDS as a "time bomb" among street children. They are particularly worried because unprotected sex with multiple partners is a way to make a living for many of Brazil's abandoned street children.
A significant number of street girls work in brothels or on the streets as prostitutes, placing them at even higher risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, including H.I.V./AIDS. One Brazilian advocacy group reported 500,000 young women under the age of 20 working as prostitutes in Brazil.