2009. 8 p.
Authors: 
Bhana, Deevia
Periodical title: 
Social Science and Medicine, 69, pp. 596–603
Description: 
This paper examines young African school children’s understanding of HIV and AIDS. Based on focus group interviews with children aged 7–8 in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, it explores the ways in which gender and sexuality feature in their responses to the disease. Data were collected between 2003 and 2004 through 26 focus groups involving 55 boys and 64 girls. The paper argues that younger children are active agents in giving meaning to the disease. Their agency is negotiated within complex social processes involving sexual violence, highly unequal gender/age inequalities, but also sexual expression. Those expressions are subsumed however under a regime of violence and fear catapulting men, albeit with contestation, as chief vectors in the spread of the disease and a source of girls’ anxieties. Children’s responses to the disease are the effects of material, symbolic and discursive forces effectively constraining the opportunities available to them and creating patterns of vulnerability especially for young girls. Interventions aimed at scaling up efforts to address young children responses to the disease must be situated in parallel efforts to end poverty, sexual violence and pervasive gender inequalities in order to foster more comprehensively the exercise of young children’s agency.
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IIEP