AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 619–626 | Cite as

Towards a Definition of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

  • Donald Skinner
  • N. Tsheko
  • S. Mtero-Munyati
  • M. Segwabe
  • P. Chibatamoto
  • S. Mfecane
  • B. Chandiwana
  • N. Nkomo
  • S. Tlou
  • G. Chitiyo
Original Paper


The HIV epidemic presents challenges including orphans and a large mass of children rendered vulnerable by the epidemic and other societal forces. Focus on orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) is important, but needs accurate definition. Twelve focus group interviews of service providers, leaders in these communities, OVC and their caretakers were conducted at six project sites across Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe to extend this definition. The loss of a parent through death or desertion is an important aspect of vulnerability. Additional factors leading to vulnerability included severe chronic illness of a parent or caregiver, poverty, hunger, lack of access to services, inadequate clothing or shelter, overcrowding, deficient caretakers, and factors specific to the child, including disability, direct experience of physical or sexual violence, or severe chronic illness. Important questions raised in this research include the long-term implications for the child and community, and the contribution of culture systems.

Key Words

Orphans HIV AIDS Orphaned and vulnerable children Definition Sub-Saharan Africa 



We would like to acknowledge the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their funding of the study and interventions, and for their continued support of this program.The direct contribution of the Masiela Trust in Botswana, the Family AIDS Caring Trust in Zimbabwe and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in South Africa also need to be acknowledged for assisting in facilitating access and for their collaboration on the overall project.Finally, those who participated directly in the project are, particularly the OVC, caregivers, NGO members, and service providers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald Skinner
    • 1
  • N. Tsheko
    • 2
  • S. Mtero-Munyati
    • 3
  • M. Segwabe
    • 4
  • P. Chibatamoto
    • 5
  • S. Mfecane
    • 1
  • B. Chandiwana
    • 5
  • N. Nkomo
    • 1
  • S. Tlou
    • 6
  • G. Chitiyo
    • 5
  1. 1.Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS and Public Health (SAHA)Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)Cape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Dept of EducationUniversity of BotswanaGaberoneBotswana
  3. 3.National Institute of Health ResearchHarareZimbabwe
  4. 4.Dept of Health and WellnessUniversity of BotswanaGaberoneBotswana
  5. 5.Biomedical Research & Training Institute-Centre for International Health and Policy BRTI-CIHPHarareZimbabwe
  6. 6.Minister of HealthGaberoneBotswana

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