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HIV/AIDS, childhood and governance: sundering the bonds of human society

Tony Barnett


There is a disharmonious resonance between the length of HIV infection in the individual human host and the length of a human generation. In brief, an infected person may have children, these may be orphaned and grow up to become infected, and afterwards they themselves may have children, who can be orphaned in turn. Hence, a basic unit of social structure in most human societies, the three-generation bond between grandparents, parents and the current generation — and on into the future — is repeatedly torn apart in the absence of treatment, a vaccine or behaviour change. This situation should be read against the threat of growing viral resistance. Certain implications of these processes for the future are outlined and discussed. The paper notes the uncertain future confronting societies that already have a relatively high number of orphans, and considers some otherwise unexpected possibilities, as well as the dangers of assuming that large-scale orphaning necessarily leads to social unrest and disorder.

Keywords: Africa, fascism, long-wave event, orphans, Polanyi, social impact, stigma

African Journal of AIDS Research 2005, 4(3): 139–145

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eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445