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Aids orphans victimised

Children orphaned by Aids are often victimised by those within their homes, schools and communities. This subject will feature on the agenda of the 22nd International Aids Conference, to be held in Amsterdam in July.

The stigmatisation of these children is likely to affect their psychological wellbeing and their development. This is according to Zeenat Yassin, a University of the Western Cape (UWC) PhD candidate.

Her research found that the families that take these children in do so for financial reasons through grants. She says these grants often do not benefit the children at all, which results in them becoming extremely vulnerable.

“I also found that the stigma is played out at home. For example, family members won’t share utensils with them, and in the school context the cycle is continued: social exclusion and victimisation by both teachers and learners, bullying, social isolation and rejection, which leads to orphans feeling devalued. Incidents of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, inadequate food and clothing, and being denied a formal education, are in most cases unavoidable realities for Aids orphans. It really is psychologically devastating to them,” says Yassin.

Yassin notes that the findings of her research could assist in employing good policymaking in areas crucial to orphan care. “We as a country need to develop policies of non-stigmatisation and non-discrimination towards children orphaned by Aids in society. There is also a need for counselling programmes, in collaboration with schools and churches,” says Yassin.

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