In the latest edition of Innovate’s Faculty Publication Spotlight, we highlight Children and AIDS, an edited book from Associate Professor Margaret Lombe, with chapters from alumna Chiedza Mufunde (MSW ’14) and current Phd student Aakanksha Sinha. The book is due to be released this coming October by the Ashgate Publishing Company.
The Issue: While the number of children orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic is depressingly large, the percentage of these living in Sub-Saharan Africa is downright staggering: one study suggests 15. 1 million of the 17.8 million worldwide, or 85 percent. Other statistics suggest that this number is even more disproportionate – as much as 90 percent.
Historically, much of the research around orphans in Africa has been focused on treatment and prevention. This make sense – the large numbers have required concerted efforts to preventing mother to child transmission, and treating cases of pediatric AIDS. But there is a glaring omission to the research story: defining vulnerability in African children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and finding interventions to improve the welfare of these vulnerable children.
The Idea: “In Africa, children are assumed to be living in families,” explains Lombe. “This means that we, as social scientists studying social problems in Africa, are called to define empowering concepts to help shape the futures of orphans on the Continent. This books asks us to reflect upon what the future of Sub-Saharan Africa will look like, and to imagine a society built on the backs of a generation of children defined as vulnerable.“
The Findings: Children and AIDS highlights collaborations of academics with service providers, with human rights groups, with the children themselves. Chapters highlight studies and interventions in Botswana, Zambia, and Kenya. The book is divided into five sections:
- An Overview of AIDS-Related Vulnerabilities among Children in Sub-Saharan Africa
- The Living Arrangement of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Responding to Orphaned and Vulnerable Children: An Overview of Public and Private Initiatives
- Children Speak Out: Is Anyone Listening?
- Making Children Matter: Vulnerability among Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Next Steps: Lombe hopes that, above all, the book will be a useful resource for courses on vulnerability in children and human rights. She hopes that Children and AIDS will challenge academics and students alike to question existing understandings of vulnerability, and inspire collaborations that build hope for the future of Africa’s children, who need to be taught that, “you are beautiful, you are full of opportunities and potential, and that you can be anything,” says Lombe.
The Takeaway: “HIV/AIDS has not been an area of research interest for me in the past,” says Lombe, “but as an African, how can I discount it? Children orphaned by this pandemic are a ubiquitous part of our Continent’s landscape, and it’s essential that we are all participants in finding ways to better include them in our societies. I came to academia to say things, to have a voice, but more than this, to provide a voice for others who may be less fortunate. I am hopeful that this book begins to do this, and that we can continue to engage in conversations around improving the lives of children especially the ones who are considered vulnerable, the world over.”