The intersection of abandonment, HIV-positive status and residential care for a group of perinatally infected adolescents
Although anti-retroviral treatments have significantly reduced the incidence of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS, there remains, for the foreseeable future, a group of adolescents who have been perinatally infected. Noting the paucity of information regarding the impact of paediatric AIDS and its intersection with residential care, this paper investigates the lived realities of 20 South African adolescents who were vertically infected with HIV and AIDS, were abandoned, and have been raised in residential care. The exploratory study highlights that for these youth the dimensions of their adolescence, HIV-positive status and associated abandonment as well as life in residential care are mutually reinforcing and interconnected. Issues of race and class also interact with these social dimensions. Ultimately, these dimensions intersect to create a particular form of social exclusion. Intentional, critical intervention is required on the micro level to support these teens develop a coherent identity. On the meso level, the residential facility should actively facilitate community integration, particularly with the adolescents’ communities (and where possible, families) of origin. Governments need to strengthen intersectoral, rights-based responses and in particular, address the consequences of cognitive impairment associated with perinatal transmission.
Keywords: adolescents, HIV and AIDS, perinatal infection, residential care