An ecosystemic investigation of the plight of learners whose parents are suffering from HIV/AIDS
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The objectives of this research were to investigate the lived experiences of parents who are suffering from the HIV/AIDS disease, investigate the lived experiences of children whose parents are suffering from the HIV/AIDS disease and propose an ecosystemic intervention programme for supporting children whose parents are suffering from the HIV/AIDS disease. The literature research investigation revealed that part of the burden that learners whose parents suffer from HIV/AIDS carry comes in the form of mental stress and experiences caused by, merely staying with a sick loved one whose condition deteriorates where hope of improvement was expected, prolonged sickness of a loved one, and witnessing the slow painful death of a loved one especially at home. These children often take on additional domestic tasks or care for sick relatives or younger siblings. The children's attendance can be compromised during this time. Their incentive to protect themselves against infection can be low when HIV is only one of many threats to health and life. Poverty may also breed low levels of respect for self and others, and thus a lack of incentive to value and protect lives. The mediating mechanisms act in ways which reduce the impact of risks, reduce negative chain reactions, maintain self-esteem and self-efficacy through relationships and task achievement and open opportunities for positive development. Findings from the empirical research reveal that parents who are HIV-positive are unemployable because of their ill-health, a situation which makes their families to leave in dire poverty. The parents often blame each other for their HIV-positive status sometimes as a way of relieving stress, but when these parents blame each other their children are caught in the cross-fire. Children of parents who suffer from HIV/AIDS are discriminated against and stigmatised by other children, friends and people from their communities. This situation affects these children both psychologically and emotionally. These children assume adult responsibilities at a very tender age, usually lack basic needs such as food, clothing, school uniform, school necessities etc. Their scholastic performance gets negatively affected because of lack concentration, not having enough time to do homework and being frequently absent from school. The children become vulnerable to verbal, emotional and physical abuse, do not get the necessary support they need from their family members, community, government institutions such as the Department of Health and in schools where they attend. These children do not seem to be coping with the circumstances they find themselves in especially if they are also HIV-positive. There is no communication between children of parents who suffer from HIV/AIDS and their parents concerning their experiences about the disease, how they feel and the future expectations. There is also no clear plan on what should these children do, in the case of their parents' death. At schools where these children attend there are no clear strategies to assist them to catch-up with their school work after a long absence and the children do not receive any work from school while they are at home sick or recuperating from illness as per the National Policy on HIV/AIDS. An ecosystemic programme is proposed in this research.
- Education