HIV/AIDS and vulnerability: sundering the bonds of human society?

HIV/AIDS and vulnerability: sundering the bonds of human society?

AIDS orphaning could significantly impact upon societal structures

This background note, for a UNAIDS workshop on Vulnerability and AIDS, explores how the impact of HIV and AIDS may threaten social development, with major implications for social and political relations at household, community and national level. The paper: describes the nature of HIV and AIDS and why it is a cause for concern; explores the extent of AIDS orphaning; and speculates about the broader implications for public policy and the welfare of children. The author outlines a cycle of AIDS orphaning that results in the basic unit of social structure being threatened, as the bond between grandparents, parents and children is threatened.

The author speculates about two potential future scenarios: the epidemic could place pressure on the state and elite, resulting in authoritarian responses and policies; or, the epidemic elicits a substantial community response, as members work not solely for their own individual welfare, but also for the welfare of their communities and the younger generations. The author highlights the range of possible future scenarios but stresses the importance of not stigmatising orphans of the AIDS epidemic and the need to be careful in describing and discussing the possible implications of this long wave event. [adapted from author]