Many Aids orphans are forced to look after themselves
The United Nations has launched an initiative to deal with the threat that HIV/Aids poses to African states, where 70% of the world's HIV positive people live.
The Commission on HIV Aids and Governance in Africa has begun discussions in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Nearly 30 million people are living with HIV in Africa and their premature deaths rob the continent of vital skills.
The 20 commissioners, mostly drawn from Africans in leadership positions, are over the next two years supposed to devise policies to help African governments cope with the impact of the virus.
The United Nations now says it is no longer good enough to think of Aids solely as a health issue.
This new commission will look at what happens to a society when a large portion of the population is HIV positive.
Questions they will try to answer include:
How will children learn when the teachers are dying at a faster rate than they are being trained?
Who will look after the sick when many of the experienced doctors and nurses have died?
Their research should help politicians - from finance ministers to education ministers to health ministers - come up with policies to help protect the future of their countries.
South Africa, which has more people living with HIV than any other country in the world, is already seeing the effects of the virus on society.
The direct effect on the economy is difficult to assess, but the health and education sectors are increasingly coming under pressure.
The death of teachers from Aids, puts pressure on schools, particularly in rural areas.
There are more than 30,000 nursing posts waiting to be filled - with HIV/Aids believed to be a significant factor.
Business are also having to cope with increased sickness among staff and bigger companies are even providing Aids-fighting antiretroviral drugs to all their employees who need them at huge cost.
They say it is cheap compared to the long term implications of the epidemic.