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Resilience through participation and coping-enabling social environments: the case of HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa

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Many children and youths living in low-resource and high-HIV-prevalence communities in sub-Saharan Africa are presented with daily hardships that few of us can even imagine. It is therefore no surprise that most research reporting on the experiences of HIV-affected children in resource-poor settings focuses on their poor health and development outcomes, casting them as victims. However, there is a growing trend to draw on more strengths-based conceptualisations in the study and support of HIV-affected children and youths. In this introduction to a special issue of The African Journal of AIDS Research, we cement this trend by providing a theoretical exposition and critique of the ‘coping’ and ‘resilience’ concepts and draw on the 11 empirical studies that make up this special issue to develop a framework that appropriates the concepts for a particular context and area of study: HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa. The articles included here show, albeit in different ways and to different degrees, that the resilience of HIV-affected children in the region is an outcome of their agency and interactions with their social environment. Policy actors and practitioners working to support HIV-affected children in Africa should take heed of the proposed framework and draw on the research presented here to build coping-enabling social environments — presenting children and youths in Africa with greater opportunity to actively deal with hardship and work towards a more promising future.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; family; households; orphans and vulnerable children; psychosocial aspects; qualitative research; resource-poor settings; social capital; social networks; youths

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Health Promotion and Development, University of Bergen, Christiesgt. 13 5015, Bergen, Norway

Publication date: 2012-10-01

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