Qualitative exploration of HIV-related stigma and the psychosocial well-being of children orphaned by AIDS

  • Zeenat YassinEmail author
  • Charlene Jennifer Erasmus
  • Josè Frantz


Children orphaned by AIDS continue to display lower levels of psychosocial well-being. While HIV-related stigma has been identified as a risk factor for healthy psychosocial development, there remains an inadequate understanding of orphaned children’s experiences and perceptions of HIV-related stigma and its impact on their psychosocial well-being. This study explored children orphaned by AIDS perceptions and experiences of HIV-related stigma and how it has affected their psychosocial well-being. This study used a qualitative exploratory descriptive design. Thirteen participants between 8 and 17 years of age were purposively selected. Data was collected using individual open-ended face-to-face interviews, observations and field notes. Data was transcribed and analysed using a thematic analysis. Three key themes emerged, (1) children’s experiences of stigma and discrimination; (2) children’s perceptions of HIV-related stigma; (3) and the psychosocial well-being of children orphaned by AIDS. Children were highly perceptive and experienced HIV-related stigma as a result of their association with parental HIV/AIDS, regardless of their own HIV status. Experiences and perceptions of HIV-related stigma were identified to negatively impact the psychological and emotional well-being, social well-being, perceived social support, self-concept and self-esteem, and future orientation of orphaned children. This qualitative study contributes towards an understanding of orphaned children’s experiences and perceptions of HIV-related stigma and how it may affect their psychosocial well-being, which is useful for informing future research and policies and programmes guided towards ensuring the well-being of children orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS.


HIV/AIDS Orphans HIV-related stigma Psychosocial well-being Exploratory design 



This study was funded by the National Research Foundation under grant no. 102468.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of the Western Cape and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the University of the Western Cape’s Human and Social Sciences Research Ethics Committee under ethics reference number HS17/1/17.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Child and Family Studies, Social WorkUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Research and InnovationUniversity of the Western CapeBellvilleSouth Africa

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