Foundation for the Future: Meeting the Psychosocial Needs of Children Living with HIV in Africa

In 2009, 2.5 million children under 15 years were living with HIV around the world, with the vast majority— 2.3 million—in sub-Saharan Africa (U.N. Children’s Fund [UNICEF], Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/ AIDS [UNAIDS], and the World Health Organization [WHO] 2010). In that same year alone, an estimated 370,000 children were born with HIV (UNICEF, UNAIDS, and WHO 2010). For most of the history of the epidemic, the majority of children born with HIV in resource poor settings did not survive past infancy, let alone early childhood (Brahmbhatt et al. 2006; Sutcliffe et al. 2008). Now, however, recent studies indicate that 36 percent of infants living with HIV have a median life expectancy of 16 years (Ferrand et al. 2009). Furthermore, advances in HIV testing for exposed infants and children and in providing antiretroviral therapy (ART) are increasingly enabling children living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives (Mellins et al. 2004; Sopeña 2010). For these children, HIV is a chronic disease requiring a lifetime of continuous treatment, care, and support to ensure their physical and mental development, as well as their emotional and psychological well-being (see Box 1; Family Health International [FHI] 2007).