An exploration of adolescents' experiences of parental AIDS-related illness and bereavement.
South Africa is one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS, and the impact on children living in affected households and communities is significant. The loss of a parent or caregiver due to an AIDS related illness has left many children orphaned. Understandings of bereavement particularly amongst African adolescents and adults’ responses to orphans’ psychological and emotional difficulties, remains underdeveloped. This paper explored adolescents’ experiences of parental AIDS related illness and bereavement. Ten adolescents participated in this study. Qualitative methods such as observation, individual interviews and a focus group were the means of data collection. Key findings of the study were that: adolescents were profoundly affected by the death of their parents with some showing signs of great anxiety in relation to their future; were in need of emotional and material support; and were affected by the intense stigma associated with HIV/AIDS which resulted in secrecy and shame. This study suggests that if we listen to the voices of children, we will learn about their emotional, psychological, developmental, and behavioural needs, which in turn will inform interventions working with vulnerable and orphaned children.