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close this bookPoverty and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNDP, 1998, 11 p.)
close this folderPOVERTY AS PROCESS
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPoverty and HIV Infection
View the documentCoping with HIV and AIDS
View the documentIntergenerational Impacts of HIV

Intergenerational Impacts of HIV

These intergenerational effects of HIV and AIDS are the longest lasting of all and relate to the mechanisms whereby the epidemic intensifies poverty and leads to its persistence. They are those processes which generate over time a culture of poverty - not created by the HIV epidemic but undoubtedly strengthened by the direct and indirect effects of the epidemic on social and economic development. They arise in part from the effects of the epidemic on human and institutional capacity where losses occur because of erosion of human resources. It follows that poverty reduction strategies will be increasingly ineffective in the face of an intensifying HIV epidemic which undermines sustainable development. Thus reducing poverty through sustainable development has become an even greater challenge than hitherto for countries in Africa.

It is possible to disaggregate the effects of the epidemic so as to perceive what is going on at the levels of families and communities. These will have their effects over many years and unlike the coping strategies noted above are longer term in their consequences. It is instructive to consider Kevina's story (see Box) in order to understand the processes at work for all of the elements necessary for poverty to persist over time are revealed by what she writes. These experiences are now being repeated a million fold by other children throughout Africa, children who represent the future - who are the future for the continent.

My names are Kevina Lubowa. I am 14 years old. I have 4 brothers and 3 sisters younger than me. I come from Uganda. I am studying in Primary six. I have come here come here to say something about AIDS and its problems.

AIDS means acquired immune-deficiency syndrome. It’s a terrible disease. It killed both my mother and father in 1992. It killed all brothers and sisters of my father. It has killed many men and women in Uganda.

Some houses have been closed. But our house was not closed because my father and mother left me with four brothers and two sisters. I look after them. I also look after my grandfather who lives near us, because his wife died and nobody was there to look after him. He is 84 years old. He lost his wife in 1992. The grandfather does not see. He has eye problems. It is me who looks after the family.

From school, I go to bring water from the well. I take a jerrican on my head. I tell my brothers and sisters to go in the bush and collect firewood. Sometimes, when we don't have fire, we go and get it from our neighbours. We cook potatoes, matooke, pumpkins and casava. But my brothers do not want cassava; they want only matooke. Our banana plantation is now a forest. We dig in our plantation on holidays and on Saturday. Our food is not enough. Some days we don't get food. We eat cassava with boiled water as sauce. We don't have money to buy sugar or tea leaves.

In the evening I make up beds for my young sisters and brothers. Every week we cut grass to use as our mattresses. We all sleep together and cover ourselves with blankets. Sometimes we sleep in the corner of the house because our house is leaking. Our blankets get wet and we put them near the fire or in the sun to dry.

There is the problem of disease. We get sick and go to the dispensary. At the dispensary they want money but we don't have the money. They give only tablets. We foot from home to the dispensary. At the dispensary they want money. They give only tablets. We foot from home to the dispensary. You cannot stop a car because they also want money. Old women help us and give us leaves and mululuza to chew. This helps to get rid of fever.

Because I am a girl people think I am weak. So they come home and steal our cassava and fire wood. Because I am a girl even when I see them I can do nothing. Some people in the village are not friends. They shout at us, they don't give us advice; we don't have any one to call father or mother; we feel sad when we see other children laughing with their father and mother. In short, this is how I find life.

But other orphans have the same life. They don't have blankets; they don't eat meat; they don't have sugar; they sleep in huts. Some go to eat at the neighbors or they get one meal a day. At school, life is good. The teacher calls us orphans, but I don't want that name. Even other children don't want that name. We think we are animals.

My friends, I am concluding by saying that the life of an orphan in Uganda is bad. Some people want us to work as their house girls and house boys. Now we want good food, blankets, education and many other things. We also want to live in good houses. So orphans need help. We need to grow and to be proud and happy people.

Let me stop here. Thank you very much, Merci beaucoup.


Kevina's story contains all of the essential elements that contribute to intergenerational poverty. Children are left isolated who have lost both parents and access to most forms of social support. The mechanisms for socialisation of children no longer operate, so that systems for acculturisation do not function and the children become alienated from their community. It is the beginning of the process of alienation and anomie which have socially destructive outcomes for children and their communities, and ultimately for society.

There are also the direct effects of what has happened to the children which are material and damaging to their futures. Poor nutrition leads to poor health which is an important cause of low labour productivity and thus the persistence of low incomes for the poor. Poor and damp housing is a major factor in causing illnesses such as TB which is itself exacerbated by the HIV epidemic (where there is now a dual epidemic underway in Africa). These children will continue to experience poor health status over their lifetimes with all kinds of social and economic consequences for them and their families.

The children's chances of escaping from their poverty depends on access to resources which are self evidently missing. These include access to education which is the primary mechanism that the poor have for social mobility. But education is one thing that these children will not have access to in accordance with their abilities - most evidently in the case of girl children. A generation is thus emerging with poor health status, few skills (not even those necessary for rural development), low levels of literacy and numeracy, little or no access to financial and other real assets (where their property and other rights will often have been infringed), and who have been deprived of normal processes of socialisation and social inclusion. Indeed they will face additional social exclusion because they come from families who have experienced AIDS.

These children display, in other words, all those characteristics typical of the poor and the disadvantaged. They are in effect the next generation of the poor, and are the outcome of ongoing structural processes which are being intensified by the HIV epidemic currently affecting so many Africans of all social classes and all ages. They also represent both the future and the challenge for sustained development in Africa. If their educational, health, housing and other psycho-social needs are not addressed through specific policies and programmes then it is difficult to see how national development objectives can possibly be achieved. Just as important is the fact that large numbers of children growing up in poverty will adopt precisely those behaviours which lead to HIV infection. They will in effect become the next cohort of the HIV infected; a state of affairs which will permit the epidemic to continue and intensify.