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Who areAIDS orphans? A constantly changing definition

Who are “AIDS orphans?” A constantly changing definition

Before evaluating the number of children affected by this phenomenon, as well as its consequences, it is necessary to clearly specify how “AIDS orphans” are defined because this term covers different realities depending on the years and reports. This definition is an essential step to assess the scale of the problem on the one hand and to plan actions for these children on the other hand.

The definition adopted for “AIDS orphans” allows the establishment of criteria in order to target the children who can be assisted. The age of children is a major factor. Until what age is an orphan considered a child? What are the needs of children according to their age? What are the criteria to identify an orphaned child? In this first part, we will specify the discrepancies in definitions across time, their consequences, and their changes until the international community agreed on a common definition.

Before specifying further, let us quote Sandrine Dekens and Olivier Appaix who call for a note of caution concerning any attempt, necessarily restrictive, to categorize orphans:
 “To set a single limit will certainly make the identification task easier and will particularly facilitate the census of children likely to benefit from assistance programs. But there is a risk of excluding young adults or adolescents who are greatly deprived by the death of their parents and the lack of resources and preparation to support their siblings for example. There is also a risk in considering same-age children in an equivalent way, even though their experiences are extremely varied and require different needs (…). Thus it is necessary to set limits while keeping in mind that they are artificial, and that they never correspond exactly to reality when considering perceptions as well as social practices. Furthermore, this limit must be able to be changed whenever it does not adequately account for these realities” Appaix and Dekens, 2005.

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