Children whose parents are HIV positive are missing school and
getting behind with their education because of their caring
responsibilities, a new report has shown, writes Clare
One child aged between four and eight years was noted as missing
school and getting behind with their school studies, in Social Work
Monographs, a report by the University of East Anglia.
A trend towards greater educational impact on older children
aged between 12 and 16 years was also highlighted.
The report says that although other factors such as poverty,
racial discrimination, poor housing, insecure immigration status,
bereavement of other family members, may all be contributing
factors to poor educational attainment, the HIV status of parents
may have an effect.
“But many parents are reluctant to explain the family’s
situation to the school, which might in some cases result in
support for the child,” the study says.
The research concentrated on two organisations in London
providing support services to families affected by HIV/AIDS, with
particular support for young people. Eleven organisations were
contacted for the research, but nine either declined to participate
or did not respond.
“The small number of children involved in the study mean it is
illustrative rather than definitive,” it says.
The stigma that is still associated with HIV, which can affect
whether an infected parent discloses their diagnosis, is
highlighted. This supports the findings of a recent report by the
HIV/AIDS charity Terrence Higgins Trust, which urged health and
social care organisations to ensure their anti-discriminatory
policies are in practice rather than just on paper.
Not all HIV affected families were in contact with a social
worker or care manager, the report reveals. It calls for a wider
perspective to locate these children and provide services for them
in the way they wish, in order to understand and meet their
The majority of children involved in the research live in
one-parent families where the parent has a terminal illness. Of 60
young people surveyed, only seven lived with foster parents or
other relatives. But other research cited showed that bereaved
children had difficulties adapting to substitute care.
“If fostering arrangements can be combined with long term
planning for substitute care on the parent’s death this is
obviously in the interests of the child, providing continuity of
carers and a buffer against insecurity,” the report says.
Author Anne Wagner concludes that more research is needed to
determine how affected adolescents can be best supported, and what
type of interventions can partly compensate for the stresses they
are facing in their home situation.
“To do this services should be user-led, empowering, and take
into account the views and experience of the young people
themselves,” it concludes.
‘Social Work Monographs. Young People Affected by Parental HIV:
An Investigation from the Perspective of Service Users and
Providers’, University of East Anglia 2001 available from 01603