The orphaning experience: descriptions from Ugandan youth who have lost parents to HIV/AIDS
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The HIV/AIDS epidemic has continued to pose significant challenges to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Millions of African children and youth have lost parents to HIV/AIDS leaving a generation of orphans to be cared for within extended family systems and communities. The experiences of youth who have lost parents to the HIV/AIDS epidemic provide an important ingress into this complex, evolving, multi-dimensional phenomenon. A fundamental qualitative descriptive study was conducted to develop a culturally relevant and comprehensive description of the experiences of orphanhood from the perspectives of Ugandan youth. A purposeful sample of 13 youth who had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS and who were affiliated with a non-governmental organization providing support to orphans were interviewed. Youth orphaned by HIV/AIDS described the experience of orphanhood beginning with parental illness, not death. Several losses were associated with the death of a parent including lost social capitol, educational opportunities and monetary assets. Unique findings revealed that youth experienced culturally specific stigma and conflict which was distinctly related to their HIV/AIDS orphan status. Exploitation within extended cultural family systems was also reported. Results from this study suggest that there is a pressing need to identify and provide culturally appropriate services for these Ugandan youth prior to and after the loss of a parent(s).
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