Suffering, silence, and status: the importance and challenges of qualitative research on AIDS orphanhood

Kristen Cheney

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with Ugandan children affected by AIDS conducted from 2007 to 2014, this report summarizes findings of a study conducted to better understand the ways children experience orphanhood at the hands of HIV/AIDS. Three crucial, interrelated concepts emerged: suffering, silence, and status. This study explored the social context of AIDS orphanhood as both a cause of social suffering and a context for the suffering of individual children. Though problematic, silence about suffering is often due to continuing HIV/AIDS stigma in Uganda that makes one's status unspeakable, in spite of the adverse effect this has on the social order and efforts to eradicate the disease. Approaching silence as a distinct form of communication rather than an absence of it, the report considers silence's intergenerational functions, its detriments, and its consolations, in the context of HIV/AIDS-affected children's lives. In doing so, it also highlights the need for more child-centered, qualitative research on AIDS' psychosocial effects on children, despite the challenges of doing such research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-40
Number of pages3
JournalAids Care-Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of Aids/Hiv
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2014

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