Robin Vincent
Publication Date
July 1, 2008

Panos London AIDS Programme

With publication supported by the Bernard van Leer Foundation, this 24-page paper challenges policymakers to find practical means to support young children in the face of poverty and AIDS – informed by the needs of those affected. It examines: what is actually happening to young children in the face of HIV and poverty; families and communities under strain; how laws and policies can create an enabling environment for support to children; involving children in the response and respecting children’s rights; tackling stigma and discrimination; and suggestions for action on children and HIV and AIDS.


According to this document, though "a consensus has developed among international [non-governmental organisations] NGOs and [United Nation] UN agencies working to support children affected by HIV and AIDS, with general agreement around key principles and priorities...there is an urgent need for concerted government action." The reasoning is that investment in children’s early years of life gives the greatest returns. "This report...highlights some of the policy challenges facing the people and organisations responsible for putting plans and strategies to address the impact of HIV and AIDS on children in their early years into practice."


Among key strategies called for in the document are the following calls for wider discussion and debate:

  • "Civil society organisations need to promote public debate on effective action for children affected by HIV and AIDS, and monitor implementation of plans to hold governments to account.
  • Efforts to promote children’s rights need to engage communities in addressing local cultural norms and practices but also need to address broader social and economic rights.
  • Stigma and discrimination need to be addressed effectively to allow open discussion and collaborative action on HIV and AIDS.



The document points to policies that may lead to empowerment of an existing social network of village and extended family support. Creating employment, systematic community mobilisation, long-term and reliable resource commitments from international donors, and supporting the highest quality care in extended family households and institutions to strengthen parenting and care-giving skills are listed as priority challenges at the policy level. Further challenges are the integration of policy debate with the implementation of laws, particularly on children's rights, and of essential services and social protections to create an enabling environment for support to children. "Participatory approaches that support children’s right to expression and participation in decision-making need to be further developed and supported."


Using the Panos process of inclusion of diverse voices to illuminate the state of children and families affected by HIV and AIDS and empower action, the document finds promises made that need to be kept: "Several governments have earmarked at least 10 per cent of their HIV and AIDS funding to services for children, including PEPFAR (the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the [United Kingdom's] UK’s Department for International Development [DFID]. The development of a range of core indicators by Unite for Children Unite against AIDS in 2005 to measure national-level progress also promises to make HIV responses more concretely accountable in future. Yet, few countries systematically collect information on early infant diagnosis or cotrimoxazole prophylaxis....Practical and policy challenges remain and it is vital that there is wide-ranging public and policy debate to address these challenges, hold authorities to account on implementation of their commitments, and ultimately enhance effective action to support young children affected by HIV and AIDS."