New research has informed the development of AIDS-related policy in Sub-Saharan Africa, improving the life chances of children who have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS.


Impact on South African government policy and planning

  • Due to the research findings, the South African National Action Plan for children affected by HIV/AIDS now includes a requirement for programmes to support young carers.
  • The research was also used in the development of the South African National AIDS Council's National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS Information Resource, which provides a broader national framework for HIV/AIDS programming.
  • Findings have been directly used in training manuals for government health and community workers, for example the Department of Social Development's Training in psychosocial support for orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
  • Dr Cluver has been appointed onto the influential policymaking body NACCA (the South African National Action Committee for Children Affected by AIDS), as an advisor to the National Department of Basic Education, and as a member of the National HIV+ Paediatric and Adolescent Technical Working Group in the National Department of Health.

Impact on international NGO policy and programming

  • The team's findings on child physical, sexual and emotional abuse and mental health were included in Save the Children's programming for abuse prevention for AIDS-affected children, as set out in their 2012 policy document Child Protection in the Context of HIV and AIDS.
  • These findings were also instrumental in the child protection policy developed by UNICEF in 2013 and their policy decision that AIDS-affected children required targeted social provision.
  • The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative, an African non-governmental organisation reaching over a million children, used the findings to directly inform their 2011 training manual for community workers.

Impact on US government foreign aid policy and programming

  • The research is extensively cited in the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)’s Guidance for Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programming (2012).
  • The studies have also been used to inform PEPFAR's programming for South Africa in particular, and were an important contribution in their focus on promoting psychological support for HIV-positive adolescents.
  • A module of the training for USAID Peace Corps volunteers working with orphaned and vulnerable children is based directly on the research findings.

"By sharing rigorous evidence on how children affected by HIV faced increased vulnerabilities over time, Dr Cluver has engaged major policymakers, donors and programme implementers in critically rethinking and redesigning programmes with an emphasis on effectively measuring results." (Marie-Eve Hammink, Global Advisor HIV and AIDS, Save the Children)

About the research

There are 85 million children living in Sub-Saharan Africa who have been orphaned by AIDS, or who are looked after by caregivers who have AIDS. Since 2005, two pioneering ESRC-funded studies have investigated the impacts of parental AIDS on children's psychological, educational and sexual health.

The research team, led by Dr Lucie Cluver from the University of Oxford, has collaborated with the South African government, non-governmental organisations and AIDS-affected children to design and disseminate the studies, which comprise the developing world's first longitudinal study of AIDS-orphaned children and the world’s largest study of AIDS-affected children.

Research findings revealed a threefold increase in the risk of child abuse in AIDS-affected families. AIDS-orphaned children have higher levels of psychological disorders than other children, including those orphaned by homicide and suicide. The social damage caused by AIDS includes stigma, extreme poverty and bullying.

The researchers identified specific interventions which could reduce the risks that children face and increase their resilience. These interventions have shaped national and international policies, and are extensively cited in South African government and UNICEF policy documents. The direct use of these studies by policymakers and practitioners in sub-Saharan Africa has contributed to combating the effects of AIDS on some of the world’s most vulnerable children.