Young children's responses to AIDS.
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This study explores the ways in which Grade Two boys and girls (aged 7-9) in a predominantly Black school construct their knowledge of HIV and AIDS. The study also seeks to explore how young children, in giving meaning to HIV and AIDS, position themselves as gendered beings in the context of HIV and AIDS. By focussing on the construction of young children’s identities in response to AIDS, this study demonstrates how children, in responding to AIDS, do gender and sexuality. There is very little work around gender and young children, let alone gender, HIV and AIDS, and sexuality. This is because of the ways in which children are perceived to be nonsexual, degendered and without the capacity to think beyond a certain stage of development (See Bhana, 2006; 2007a; 2007b; 2008; Silin, 1995; MacNaughton, 2000 as exceptions). By drawing upon qualitative and feminist methodological approaches, this study positions young children as having their own identities, as active participants who are capable of making meaning. This study shows that AIDS is embedded within social, economic, cultural, political and ideological contexts and that the ways in which these children give meanings to HIV and AIDS are embedded within these contexts. In responding to AIDS, the children in this study inform us of their relationship to AIDS within social processes including sexuality, gender, race and class, and they show us how these are actively acted upon. This study also shows the children positioning themselves as gendered beings with the capacity to think, feel and enact their sexuality. In doing so, they dispel many notions which position young children as unknowing, asexual beings.