Three years later her mother died while Gashaw was watching cartoons with a friend whose family owned a TV. "Before I went I asked her if she would like a cup of coffee to make her feel better. When I came back I couldn't get the cup of coffee out of her hand and I couldn't get her to wake up," says Gashaw. Since then Gashaw, who is partially deaf because of HIV, has lived at the orphanage with her two brothers. "I want to go to school so I can be a doctor. But I don't know if I will grow old enough to succeed. What will happen to us?"
Until recently Gashaw's question had only one answer. HIV in Ethiopia – which has one of the most dire AIDS epidemics in all of Africa – was a death sentence, especially for a child. But in the last year, the government began dispensing the drugs, known as anti-retroviral "cocktails," that have made HIV more manageable elsewhere since the early '90s. Now a team of doctors from Columbia University, selected by the New York-based Worldwide Orphans Foundation, has begun to teach 40 pediatricians from throughout Ethiopia how to administer the powerful medications to children. "The drugs could change the kids' lives in a matter of days or weeks," says Dr. Marc Foca, pausing between examining sick kids at the orphanage and conducting classroom sessions with the Ethiopian doctors at the United Nations' headquarters in Addis Ababa. "They will be amazed at the results, absolutely amazed."