HIV/AIDS has done a great damage to families and their children. Due to HIV/AIDS, grandmothers find themselves caring for their sick children, grandchildren and orphaned grandchildren. Because of the large number of AIDS orphans, the existing pool of community-based support has become saturated. Therefore these children now have to fend for themselves. They are forced to become heads of the households and breadwinners. In this situation the older children have to assume the role of looking after their siblings. Death caused by HIV/AIDS leaves children vulnerable, in great distress and poverty. The stigma and discrimination related to the HIV/AIDS pandemic has resulted in the isolation of infected persons and their family members. Sometimes the isolation continues until and even after the children become orphans. It is a fact that HIV/AIDS orphans as heads of households are undergoing traumatic experiences. On the psychological level children are traumatized by the illness of their parent(s). Because of the high rate of unemployed and pervasive poverty in this country many families are reluctant to take in orphans. Other problems are: the cost of treating illnesses caused by HIV/AIDS places a huge economic burden on families. After death, funeral expenses contribute to the toll exacted by HIV/AIDS. It becomes increasingly impossible for families and communities to absorb the cost and support the large numbers of children alone. Some women hesitate to take in the orphaned children of their relatives because they fear that their husbands will abuse the children Investigation into the existing literature reveals that previous studies concentrated mostly on the educational, psychosocial and emotional needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Studies on child headed households’ deals primarily with children’s rights and the accessibility of social grants for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Although not much was available statistically, for the purpose of this study I have identified several households headed by children, whether the cause of this was HIV/AIDS or misfortunes such as parental suicide or accidents. This study has focused on the experiences of HIV/AIDS orphans in child headed households. This study has also investigated whether HIV/AIDS orphans suffer more deeply psychologically and emotionally than children who have been orphaned by other circumstances other than AIDS. This study highlights the many difficulties and setbacks experienced by HIV/AIDS orphans who become heads of households after the death of their parents. An exploratory research design was utilised and qualitative approach was followed. Five households were chosen as samples that complied with requirements of this study. Participants in these households were between ages 13 and 18 years old. The information gathered by means of literature and empirical research reveals that the children affected by HIV/AIDS are not only physically impoverished, but also psychologically, socially and spiritually. They suffer from fear, depression, stress, anxiety, stigmatisation and discrimination, isolation, and are often scorned by peers. HIV/AIDS orphans experience psychological trauma on account of witnessing their parent’s illness and death (or departure), carrying the responsibility of caring for sick parents, and after their death, for siblings. The socio-economic circumstances of HIV/AIDS orphans in child headed household often force them to drop out of school, in order to find ways of providing for the family. The traumatic experience of HIV/AIDS orphans and children who have been orphaned to other circumstances, are similar. The following themes can be considered for future research:<ul> <li>Stress experienced by HIV/AIDS orphans in child headed households due to HIV/AIDS</li>. <li>The role of churches in identifying and supporting orphans in child headed households</li>.</ul>
Dissertation (MTheol(Practical Theology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.