African Journal of AIDS Research

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Bereavement among South African adolescents following a sibling’s death from AIDS

Craig Demmer, Nina Rothschild


While increasing attention has been paid in recent years to studying the impact of parental death from AIDS on children, we know little about how a sibling’s death from AIDS affects children. In this qualitative descriptive study, 11 in-depth interviews were conducted by trained social workers with adolescents who had lost a sibling to AIDS, in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. The average time since the sibling’s death was 18 months. These adolescents had been actively involved in caring for their sick sibling, yet they received inadequate emotional support from any source both before and after the sibling’s death. HIV/AIDS stigma as well as the family’s daily struggle to survive caused these adolescents to keep their feelings and their grief to themselves. Despite the trauma of losing a beloved sibling and the hardships of their environment, they demonstrated remarkable fortitude as well as concern for others. More research is needed on the issue of sibling bereavement associated with AIDS, and interventions that address the multiple needs of these vulnerable young people need to be developed.

Keywords: children and youths, grief, HIV/AIDS, psychological aspects, qualitative research, sibling loss

African Journal of AIDS Research 2011, 10(1): 15–24
AJOL African Journals Online